A Twist On Event Processing: Reorganizing Attention To Cope With Novelty In Dynamic Activity Sequences


Fluent event processing appears to critically involve selectively attending to information-rich junctures within continuously unfolding sensory streams (e.g., Newtson, 1973). What counts as information-rich would seem to depend on a variety of factors, however, including the novelty/familiarity of such events, as well as opportunity for repeated viewings. Using Hard, Recchia, & Tversky’s “Dwell-time Paradigm,” we investigated the extent to which viewers’ attention to unfolding activity streams is affected by novelty/familiarity and a second viewing. Viewers’ dwell times were recorded as they advanced twice each through three slideshows varying in familiarity but equated on other dimensions. Dwell time patterns revealed reorganization on a number of fronts: a) familiarity elicited decreased dwelling overall, b) dwell-time patterns changed systematically on second viewing, and c) familiarity modulated the specific nature of change associated with repeated viewing. These findings illuminate reorganization in attention as action information is first encountered and quickly incorporated to guide processing.

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