Date of Award


Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Several properties of visual stimuli have been shown to capture attention, one of which is the onset of motion (Abrams & Christ, 2003). However, whether motion onset truly captures attention has been debated (e.g., Sunny & von Mühlenen, 2011). It has been argued that motion onset only captured attention in previous studies because properties of the animated motion used in those experiments caused it to be “jerky” (i.e., there were large gaps between the locations of the stimuli as they were drawn on the computer monitor). The present study sought to further examine these claims by determining under which circumstances animated motion onset, the only type of motion onset a computer display can produce, does and does not capture attention. Additionally, the present study sought to determine whether natural motion onset captures attention. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants identified target letters in search arrays containing distinct animated motion types. These experiments examined animated motion onset accompanied or unaccompanied by a new object. Animated motion onset captured attention, but not when the motion onset was accompanied by a new object, indicating that prior failures to replicate capture by animated motion onset (e.g., Sunny & von Mühlenen, 2011) were flawed because a new object was always included in the display. Experiment 3 employed natural motion rather than animated motion and found that participants were fastest at identifying motion onset targets compared to other target types. Experiment 4 included co-occurring animated and natural motion and again found that natural motion onsets are detected more quickly than other motion types. These results provide further support for the claim that motion onset captures attention.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Richard A. Abrams, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences

Committee Members

David A. Balota, Julie M. Bugg


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