The role of attention in motion extrapolation: Are moving objects 'corrected' or flashed objects attentionally delayed?

Beena Khurana*, Katsumi Watanabe, Romi Nijhawan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Objects flashed in alignment with moving objects appear to lag behind [Nijhawan, 1994 Nature (London) 370 256-257]. Could this 'flash-lag' effect be due to attentional delays in bringing flashed items to perceptual awareness [Titchener, 1908/1973 Lectures on the Elementary Psychology of Feeling and Attention first published 1908 (New York: Macmillan); reprinted 1973 (New York: Arno Press)]? We overtly manipulated attentional allocation in three experiments to address the following questions: Is the flash-lag effect affected when attention is (a) focused on a single event in the presence of multiple events, (b) distributed over multiple events, and (c) diverted from the flashed object? To address the first two questions, five rings, moving along a circular path, were presented while observers attentively tracked one or multiple rings under four conditions: the ring in which the disk was flashed was (i) known or (ii) unknown (randomly selected from the set of five); location of the flashed disk was (i) known or (ii) unknown (randomly selected from ten locations). The third question was investigated by using two moving objects in a cost - benefit cueing paradigm. An arrow cued, with 70% or 80% validity, the position of the flashed object. Observers performed two tasks: (a) reacted as quickly as possible to flash onset; (b) reported the flash-lag effect. We obtained a significant and unaltered flash-lag effect under all the attentional conditions we employed. Furthermore, though reaction times were significantly shorter for validly cued flashes, the flash-lag effect remained uninfluenced by cue validity, indicating that quicker responses to validly cued locations may be due to the shortening of post-perceptual delays in motor responses rather than the perceptual facilitation. We conclude that the computations that give rise to the flash-lag effect are independent of attentional deployment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-692
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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