Functional relations trump implied motion in recovery from extinction: evidence from the effects of animacy on extinction.
Riddoch MJ., Riveros R., Humphreys GW.
Patients with extinction show a characteristic impairment in the identification of objects when two items are presented simultaneously, typically reporting the ipsilesional item only. The effect is thought to be due to a spatial bias advantaging the ipsilesional item under conditions of competing concurrent stimulation. Action relations between objects can result in recovery from extinction as the object pair may be perceived as a single group rather than competing perceptual units. However, objects interacting together can also have implied motion. Here we test whether implied motion is necessary to generate recovery from extinction. We varied orthogonally whether animate and inanimate objects were paired together in positions related or unrelated to action. Implied motion was greater when an animate object was present than when both stimuli were inanimate. Despite this, recovery from extinction was greater when actions were shown between inanimate objects. We suggest that actions between inanimate objects are perceived more easily due to the surfaces of these stimuli being designed for functional goals (e.g., the flat surface of a hammer head is designed to hit the flattened head of a nail). Attention is sensitive to the fit between potential action and the functional properties of objects, and not just to implied motion between stimuli.