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How many objects can you track?: Evidence for a resource-limited attentive tracking mechanism
 

Summary: How many objects can you track?: Evidence for a
resource-limited attentive tracking mechanism
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA, USAGeorge A. Alvarez
Department of Psychology Northwestern University,
Evanston, IL, USASteven L. Franconeri
Much of our interaction with the visual world requires us to isolate some currently important objects from other less
important objects. This task becomes more difficult when objects move, or when our field of view moves relative to the
world, requiring us to track these objects over space and time. Previous experiments have shown that observers can track a
maximum of about 4 moving objects. A natural explanation for this capacity limit is that the visual system is architecturally
limited to handling a fixed number of objects at once, a so-called magical number 4 on visual attention. In contrast to this
view, Experiment 1 shows that tracking capacity is not fixed. At slow speeds it is possible to track up to 8 objects, and yet
there are fast speeds at which only a single object can be tracked. Experiment 2 suggests that that the limit on tracking is
related to the spatial resolution of attention. These findings suggest that the number of objects that can be tracked is
primarily set by a flexibly allocated resource, which has important implications for the mechanisms of object tracking and for
the relationship between object tracking and other cognitive processes.
Keywords: multiple object tracking, MOT, multi-element tracking, attentive tracking, FINST, FLEX, attention, capacity
Citation: Alvarez, G. A., & Franconeri, S. L. (2007). How many objects can you track?: Evidence for a resource-limited
attentive tracking mechanism. Journal of Vision, 7(13):14, 110, http://journalofvision.org/7/13/14/, doi:10.1167/7.13.14.

  

Source: Alvarez, George A. - Department of Psychology, Harvard University

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine