Bottom Line: Objects Grab Our Eyes

So, I’m cruising down the aisles at the local market, looking at all of the brand selections for my next week’s dinner compilation when I think to myself how vivid all of the imagery on the packaging of the branded items is. Have you ever noticed how strikingly lucid some of the packages are or noticed how the shapes just draw your eyeballs to them? Well, this is no magical act, the packaging of an item and the shape are made that way on purpose, so your object-based attention is activated while you are shopping for these items.

In reading an article by Elias Cohen and Frank Tong, they made it very clear what “neural mechanisms of Object-Based attention” affect our human behaviors. In their research, they used fMRI and multivariate analysis. After using these technologies to study the effects of object-based attention, they found “superior knowledge of upright objects led to improved attentional selection in early areas.” In other words, people’s attention got better as they looked at objects and if the objects were familiar to them from seeing the shapes previously. So, as I’m still shopping at the market, I come to the dairy section and what grabs my eyes right away? The 3D triangular sized cheese product that looks like the cheese you would see back in the cartoons you watched as a child. Why did this cheese stand out to me more than the others? It was because I was familiar with its shape from my previous experience with watching a triangle shaped piece of cheese in cartoons growing up. According to our textbook Goldstein, B. (2011), “attention can be based…on where a person is looking on a specific object (object based attention.” So, it was pretty clever that the manufacturer of the cheese product decided to shape the cheese into a 3D object so as to grab a consumer’s attention right away, giving them an advantage over all the other cheese brands.

This leads me back to Cohen and Tong’s argument. They cited a simple idea from another researcher Duncan 1984, who said “according to prominent theories of object-based attention, the attentional system is predisposed to select entire visual objects during top-down enhancement.” We as humans will turn our attention straight to something that is of a shape form right away because we are just built that way. Most of the companies in today’s day and age are constantly trying to grab the consumer in different ways of advertisement and will have a leg up in the race when they choose to add a 3D dimensional shape to their product. This is what we know from Goldstein B. (2011) as the feature integration theory “when we look at an object, we see the whole object, not an object that has been divided into its individual features.” This process is occurring before we ever even know it is happening just because we as humans will analyze everything about an object since it is in our physiological nature.

In essence, objects will grab our eyes. Once we engage our attention to the object we will begin the process of what we will choose to do with that visual stimulation.

cheese triangle





Cohen, Elias H. & Tong, Frank “Neural Mechanisms of Object-Based Attention” 2015-03-06
Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Wadsworth, Inc.

3 thoughts on “Bottom Line: Objects Grab Our Eyes

  1. Giulianni Hardy-gerena

    Thank you for sharing Cohen and Tong’s experiment on object-based attention. I’ll admit that I had to reread parts of the chapter on attention to understand your post, but it was well worth it. I also took some time to read Cohen and Tong’s abstract, which complemented Goldstein’s presentation of object-based attention rather well.

    While the experiment cited in the textbook studied our ability to attend to rectangles (Goldstein, 2011), Cohen and Tong tested object-based attention theory with more complex stimuli (Cohen & Tong, 2013). If our ability to perceive simple shapes like rectangles allows our attention to spread throughout those objects, then we must be able to use top-down processing to perceive real-world stimuli like the houses and faces Cohen and Tong asked subjects to attend to. The experimental results confirm this prediction that object-based theory makes. It also describes the neural activity patterns that represent the mechanisms responsible for object-based attention in the brain. These results support the theory of object-based attention and establish the essential role that top-down processing plays in directing attention.

    Like the experiments mentioned above, the scenario of the cheese in the grocery store seems like to rely on top-down processing. It is not surprising that it would be easier to attend to cheese that, because of your childhood memories, is more meaningful to you. I wondered, however, as I reread the chapter on attention, how much your attention to the cheese was influenced by scene schema. I don’t think I’ve ever seen cheese packaged in the way you describe. Food wrapped in packaging that has more meaningful features would probably catch my attention too, but so would food wrapped in packaging that doesn’t correspond to the schema I associate with the dairy aisle.


    Cohen, E. H., & Tong, F. (2013). Neural Mechanisms of Object-Based Attention. Cerebral Cortex, 25(4), 1080-1092. doi:10.1093/cercor/bht303

    Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Long-term memory: Encoding and retrieval. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (pp. 100-103). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

  2. Taelor Poletti-rokosz

    Before reading your blog post, I never once considered manufacturer use of visual stimulation in order to sell products. Thinking about my prior shopping experiences now, I can say for certainty that objects with unique shapes, colors, or distinctive logos/characters/lettering definitely caught my eye and occasionally even led to my purchasing of the object in question. Drawing even further conclusions, it is the same idea behind the subliminal messages used in radio and t.v. advertisements.
    It is incredible the ability that companies have to appeal to our senses and the knowledge of what types of stimuli attract consumers. I am interested in what kind of panels and scientists companies employ and have in order to seduce consumers into be interested in and buying their products

  3. Katie-lynn Mae Miller

    Graciela, I really enjoyed reading your post because there was a lot of truth to it. You are completely right about how the packaging of items at the store are meant to grab our attention and appeal to our object-based attention. This is very true and it makes think of how if every different kind of food just came in a basic packaging that was grey or had little to no color, it wouldn’t be as likely to be bought. Just thinking of when I open my freezer, a lot of the frozen foods have different colors and such on the packaging. For example, our frozen corn comes in green boxes and ice cream sandwiches come in a blue box. It’s really interesting to think about and how people who make the packaging on these items are trying to appeal to our senses and grab our attention so we will buy their products. It’s not just food though, everything seems to come like that to grab people’s attention. You made very good points about how these things grab our attention and then we will analyze if it was worth getting our attention and if what we saw is something that we actually want.

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