Psychology

A privileged status for animate objects

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Science  28 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 393
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6336.393-a

In the “wolfpack” effect, moving geometric shapes are perceived as animate predators and prey.

PHOTO: NPS PHOTO/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Some stimuli are so important that they capture our attention and influence how we think even when we perform an unrelated task. Moving geometric shapes, especially if moving in what appear to be a self-directed fashion, are invariably perceived to be animate, as though they represent live agents. Using “wolfpack” animations of dart shapes whose points track the movement of a disc (the prey), van Buren and Scholl show that these are more readily remembered than identical animations in which the dart points are oriented away from or perpendicular to the prey. Perceiving such moving shapes as animate reinforces visual memory and has possibly been important in human evolution.

Cognition 163, 87 (2017).

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