Dynamic distractor environments reveal classic visual field anisotropies for judgments of temporal order

John Cass*, Erik Van der Burg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Numerous studies have shown that visual performance critically depends on the stimulus’ projected retinal location. For example, performance tends to be better along the horizontal relative to the vertical meridian (lateral anisotropy). Another case is the so-called upper-lower anisotropy, whereby performance is better in the upper relative to the lower hemifield. This study investigates whether temporal order judgments (TOJs) are subject to these visual field constraints. In Experiments 1 and 2, subjects reported the temporal order of two disks located along the horizontal or vertical meridians. Each target disk was surrounded by 10 black and white distractor disks, whose polarity remained unchanged (static condition) or reversed throughout the trial (dynamic condition). Results indicate that the mere presence of dynamic distractors elevated thresholds by more than a factor of four and that this elevation was particularly pronounced along the vertical meridian, evidencing the lateral anisotropy. In Experiment 3, thresholds were compared in upper, lower, left, and right visual hemifields. Results show that the threshold elevation caused by dynamic distractors was greatest in the upper visual field, demonstrating an upper-lower anisotropy. Critically, these anisotropies were evident exclusively in dynamic distractor conditions suggesting that distinct processes govern TOJ performance under these different contextual conditions. We propose that whereas standard TOJs are processed by fast low-order motion mechanisms, the presence of dynamic distractors mask these low-order motion signals, forcing observers to rely more heavily on more sluggish higher order motion processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-751
Number of pages14
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Apparent motion
  • Attention
  • Temporal order


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