Animal Cognition

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 787–794 | Cite as

Psychophysical investigation of vigilance decrement in jumping spiders: overstimulation or understimulation?

  • Bonnie Humphrey
  • William S. Helton
  • Carol Bedoya
  • Yinnon Dolev
  • Ximena J. NelsonEmail author
Original Paper


The inability to maintain signal detection performance with time on task, or vigilance decrement, is widely studied in people because of its profound implications on attention-demanding tasks over sustained periods of time (e.g., air-traffic control). According to the resource depletion (overload) theory, a faster decrement is expected in tasks that are cognitively demanding or overstimulating, while the underload theory predicts steeper decrements in tasks that provide too little cognitive load, or understimulation. Using Trite planiceps, a jumping spider which is an active visual hunter, we investigated vigilance decrement to repetitive visual stimuli. Spiders were tethered in front of two stimulus presentation monitors and were given a polystyrene ball to hold. Movement of this ball indicates an attempt to turn towards a visual stimulus presented to a pair of laterally facing (anterior lateral) eyes for closer investigation with high acuity forward-facing (anterior median) eyes. Vigilance decrement is easily measured, as moving visual stimuli trigger clear optokinetic responses. We manipulated task difficulty by varying the contrast of the stimulus and the degree of ‘noise’ displayed on the screen over which the stimulus moved, thus affecting the signal:noise ratio. Additionally, we manipulated motivation by paired testing of hungry and sated spiders. All factors affected the vigilance decrement, but the key variable affecting decrement was stimulus contrast. Spiders exhibited a steeper decrement in the harder tasks, aligning with the resource depletion theory.


Habituation Salience Salticidae Sustained attention Selective attention Vigilance 



We are grateful to Dr. Daniel Gerhard for help with the analysis. We also thank Aynsley McNab for technical assistance with maintenance of the spiders.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest and all applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

10071_2018_1210_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13996 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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