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Simulating the role of visual selective attention during the development of perceptual completion


Matthew Schlesinger, Psychology Department, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62903, USA; e-mail:


We recently proposed a multi-channel, image-filtering model for simulating the development of visual selective attention in young infants (Schlesinger, Amso & Johnson, 2007). The model not only captures the performance of 3-month-olds on a visual search task, but also implicates two cortical regions that may play a role in the development of visual selective attention. In the current simulation study, we used the same model to simulate 3-month-olds’ performance on a second measure, the perceptual unity task. Two parameters in the model – corresponding to areas in the occipital and parietal cortices – were systematically varied while the gaze patterns produced by the model were recorded and subsequently analyzed. Three key findings emerged from the simulation study. First, the model successfully replicated the performance of 3-month-olds on the unity perception task. Second, the model also helps to explain the improved performance of 2-month-olds when the size of the occluder in the unity perception task is reduced. Third, in contrast to our previous simulation results, variation in only one of the two cortical regions simulated (i.e. recurrent activity in posterior parietal cortex) resulted in a performance pattern that matched 3-month-olds. These findings provide additional support for our hypothesis that the development of perceptual completion in early infancy is promoted by progressive improvements in visual selective attention and oculomotor skill.