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Psychologist poses new hand-eye relationship
Date:7/11/2008

earching for either an S or an H. When they found the letter, the subjects responded by pressing one of two buttons, located either on the sides of the monitor or on their laps. The subjects' search rate was slower when their hands were on the side of the monitor than on their laps, meaning that they were slower to turn their attention from one item to the next.

Abrams interprets the results to mean that there is an inherent mechanism in the human brain that forces us to move our attention, or "mind's eye," more slowly from one object to the next when the objects are near our hands. We are required to evaluate these objects more carefully because they are the only candidates for manipulation or possible harm.

Not only do we see items differently when our hands are near them, we also process the meaning of language differently, Abrams said. Other experiments showed that when reading nonsensible sentences, subjects were less likely to realize that the sentences were illogical when their hands were near the display. This means that humans are less likely to recognize errors when we are holding the something we are reading.

"If you are reading for enjoyment, put your hands near the display, " he said. "You are going to be less likely to notice, and be distracted by, typographical errors or anomalous sentences. If you are proofreading, put your hands in your lap because you're more likely to detect those incorrect sentences."

Abrams compares this new mode of information processing to the robotic arm on a space shuttle. The camera on the end of the arm sends an image to the operator about its surroundings, allowing the operator to guide the arm into position. "

The engineers who designed the arm knew that positioning it would be easier if they had the camera right in hand," he said. "What we didn't know until now was that humans have a mechanism for doing this, too."


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Contact: Richard Abrams
rabrams@wustl.edu
314-935-6538
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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