Human Attention Judgement and the Attention Schema Theory of Consciousness, Kathryn T. Farrell, UG '25 and Sarah C. Kimmel, UG '24 (2770632)
Princeton’s Attention Judgment study aims to investigate the ability of the human brain to predict and model the attention of others. Our work is centered around the Attention Schema Theory of Consciousness, which suggests that “awareness” is actually the brain’s constructed model of where its own attention is being directed. If we engage in this kind of social schematizing for external agents, we should find that humans have an intrinsic and pronounced ability to sense natural sequences of attention. Subjects in our experiments were presented with gaze sequences that highlighted the locations where real human observers moved their eyes while looking over a given image. We found that people demonstrated a significant ability to distinguish real gaze sequences from artificially scrambled ones, even when the original background image was replaced with a featureless black screen. People could also learn to discriminate between the unique patterns of attention of two different human observers, performing above chance at identifying whether the gaze sequence belonged to viewer A or viewer B. In future research, we plan on using MRI imaging technology to examine the activation of several regions of interest in the brain, and ultimately, to reveal more about the systems that may define our conscious minds.