Memory & Cognition

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 17–32 | Cite as

Attention reorganizes as structure is detected in dynamic action

  • Bridgette Martin HardEmail author
  • Meredith Meyer
  • Dare Baldwin


Once one sees a pattern, it is challenging to “unsee” it; discovering structure alters processing. Precisely what changes as this happens is unclear, however. We probed this question by tracking changes in attention as viewers discovered statistical patterns within unfolding event sequences. We measured viewers’ “dwell times” (e.g., Hard, Recchia, & Tversky, 2011) as they advanced at their own pace through a series of still-frame images depicting a sequence of event segments (“actions”) that were discoverable only via sensitivity to statistical regularities among the component motion elements. “Knowledgeable” adults, who had had the opportunity to learn these statistical regularities prior to the slideshow viewing, displayed dwell-time patterns indicative of sensitivity to the statistically defined higher-level segmental structure; “naïve” adults, who lacked the opportunity for prior viewing, did not. These findings clarify that attention reorganizes in conjunction with statistically guided discovery of segmental structure within continuous human activity sequences. As patterns emerge in the mind, attention redistributes selectively to target boundary regions, perhaps because they represent highly informative junctures of “predictable unpredictability.”


Action perception Event segmentation Statistical learning Dwell time 


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bridgette Martin Hard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Meredith Meyer
    • 2
  • Dare Baldwin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOtterbein UniversityWestervilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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