Happy Birthday AP&P!

One of the Psychonomic Society’s journals turned 50 this year: Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, more often affectionately known as AP&P, has been contributing to the scientific literature for half a century. The publisher of the journal, Springer, produced a little “happy-birthday” video:


The Editor’s birthday perspective

To further explore this milestone, I interviewed the current Editor of AP&P, Dr Michael Dodd, by email:

Q: What do you think are the most outstanding accomplishments of the journal? 

A: I’ve been most impressed by how the journal has continued to evolve over time.  It would be easy to point to the name change (the journal was originally named Perception & Psychophysics but this was changed to Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics a little under a decade ago) which served to better reflect the types of submissions we receive and which helped to position us as a premier outlet for both attention and perception research, broadly defined.  Beyond that, however, the journal was an early adopter of the Registered Reports and Replications format; we have continued to place a premium on speed of review and have continued to reduce average article turnaround time; and we currently find ourselves opening the door to more neuroscience than had been the case in the past given that advances in technology that have spurred new and exciting lines of research.  I do not think a journal can stand out in the current climate without a willingness to continually evolve and I feel as though AP&P has been ahead of the curve on this.

Q: Where do you want the journal positioned 50 years from now? 

A: AP&P has a large and loyal readership among experimental psychologists but I would like to see the journal expand to become a must-read publication for researchers in a number of different fields.  Attention and perception are ubiquitous and play a role in all forms of behavior, as evidenced by the diversity of our submissions and published works, but this can be expanded more so.  Many of the findings that we publish have considerable application to various fields and as research in general becomes more interdisciplinary, it will become increasingly important to consider work and insights from other fields.

Q: If you could make anything come true by snapping your fingers, what do you want this field to have achieved in 50 years?

A: The field, in general, is on an excellent trajectory, making it a relief that I’ve never had to consider the magic-snap question previously.  In recent years, however, we have seen an increase in the number of investigations that have tried to take basic experimental findings and apply and/or test them in the real world.  Real world research is difficult given the considerable loss of experimental control, but technological advances (e.g. portable eyetrackers, virtual reality) are continuously making this a more feasible endeavor and I think research will slowly start to move in this direction.  Fifty years from now I can envision a much more seamless integration between lab-based and real-world based research and I think this will greatly benefit our understanding of a wide array of cognitive processes in a variety of different contexts.

The real-world context

Dr. Dodd’s anticipation of a seamless integration between the lab and the real world meshes well with the Society’s new open-access journal, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (CRPI for short). The mission of CRPI is to fill Pasteur’s Quadrant, which, to quote CRPI’s founding Editor Jeremy Wolfe, refers to “work that starts with a problem in the world and brings it into the lab for rigorous study. With a bit of luck, the basic science that emerges from the lab will be relevant to applications back in the world.”

It is great to see this new initiative reflected and amplified in the vision of one of the Society’s most venerable journals.

Looking back on accomplishments

No anniversary can be complete without looking back on accomplishments. A brief look at the citation data for Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics (and Perception, & Psychophysics; the two names are indexed separately) on Thomson Reuters’ ISI reveals some impressive numbers:

  • Total number of articles published: 7,732
  • Total number of citations accrued: 208,144
  • Number of citing articles: 93,271
  • Number of citing articles not in AP&P:  87,504
  • Average citations per article: 31.47 (P&P), 7.59 (AP&P).

I think those numbers speak for themselves, and it is particularly pleasing that 94% of all citations occurred in journals other than AP&P. Clearly, the journal occupies a central part of the literature rather than a small ecological niche.

And just for illustration, here are the abstracts of the three most highly-cited articles published in AP&P:

1. Grondin, S. (2010). Timing and time perception: a review of recent behavioral and neuroscience findings and theoretical directions. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics72, 561-582. DOI: 10.3758/APP.72.3.561.

The aim of the present review article is to guide the reader through portions of the human time perception, or temporal processing, literature. After distinguishing the main contemporary issues related to time perception, the article focuses on the main findings and explanations that are available in the literature on explicit judgments about temporal intervals. The review emphasizes studies that are concerned with the processing of intervals lasting a few milliseconds to several seconds and covers studies issuing from either a behavioral or a neuroscience approach. It also discusses the question of whether there is an internal clock (pacemaker counter or oscillator device) that is dedicated to temporal processing and reports the main hypotheses regarding the involvement of biological structures in time perception.

2. Spence, C. (2011). Crossmodal correspondences: A tutorial review. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 971-995. DOI: 10.3758/s13414-010-0073-7.

In many everyday situations, our senses are bombarded by many different unisensory signals at any given time. To gain the most veridical, and least variable, estimate of environmental stimuli/properties, we need to combine the individual noisy unisensory perceptual estimates that refer to the same object, while keeping those estimates belonging to different objects or events separate. How, though, does the brain “know” which stimuli to combine? Traditionally, researchers interested in the crossmodal binding problem have focused on the roles that spatial and temporal factors play in modulating multisensory integration. However, crossmodal correspondences between various unisensory features (such as between auditory pitch and visual size) may provide yet another important means of constraining the crossmodal binding problem. A large body of research now shows that people exhibit consistent crossmodal correspondences between many stimulus features in different sensory modalities. For example, people consistently match high-pitched sounds with small, bright objects that are located high up in space. The literature reviewed here supports the view that crossmodal correspondences need to be considered alongside semantic and spatiotemporal congruency, among the key constraints that help our brains solve the crossmodal binding problem.

3. Dux, P. E., & Marois, R. (2009). The attentional blink: A review of data and theory. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 71, 1683-1700. DOI: 10.3758/APP.71.8.1683.

Under conditions of rapid serial visual presentation, subjects display a reduced ability to report the second of two targets (Target 2; T2) in a stream of distractors if it appears within 200-500 msec of Target I (T1). This effect, known as the attentional blink (AB), has been central in characterizing the limits of humans’ ability to consciously perceive stimuli distributed across time. Here, we review theoretical accounts of the AB and examine how they explain key findings in the literature. We conclude that the AB arises from attentional demands off I for selection, working memory encoding, episodic registration, and response selection, which prevents this high-level central resource from being applied to T2 at short T1-T2 lags. T1 processing also transiently impairs the redeployment of these attentional resources to subsequent targets and the inhibition of distractors that appear in close temporal proximity to T2. Although these findings are consistent with a multifactorial account of the AB, they can also be largely explained by assuming that the activation of these multiple processes depends on a common capacity-limited attentional process for selecting behaviorally relevant events presented among temporally distributed distractors. Thus, at its core, the attentional blink may ultimately reveal the temporal limits of the deployment of selective attention.

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