Tuning to the Task at Hand: Processing Goals Shape Adults' Attention to Unfolding Activity

AbstractHuman activity generates dynamic, multi-modal sensory streams. Effectively processing this complex flow of information on-the-fly is essential if one is to remember and respond to others' action, anticipate what they might do next, and learn how to perform new actions. Selectively attending to information-rich regions of activity seems key to fluent processing. However, what counts as information-rich likely depends on numerous factors including relevance to the causal structure of the activity, local opportunity for repeated viewing, and processing goals of the observer. We explored the influence of these factors on observers' attention to a dynamic, novel activity sequence. A performance context elicited nuanced differences in processing in contrast to a "remember" context. Specifically, individuals given a perform context tuned in to causally distinct regions of the action stream and fine-level event details. These findings provide altogether new information regarding how processing rapidly reorganizes around novel activity and responds to the processing task at hand.

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