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Nurit Gronau; Vision at a glance: the necessity of attention to contextual integration processes. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):11. doi: 10.1167/17.10.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Objects that are conceptually consistent with their environment are typically grasped more rapidly and efficiently than objects that are inconsistent with it. The extent to which such contextual integration processes depend on visual attention, however, is largely disputed. The present research examined the necessity of visual attention to object-object and object-scene contextual integration processes during a brief visual glimpse. Participants performed an object classification task on associated object pairs that were either positioned in expected relative locations (e.g., a desk-lamp on a desk) or in unexpected, contextually inconsistent relative locations (e.g., a desk-lamp under a desk). When both stimuli were relevant to task requirements, latencies to spatially consistent object pairs were significantly shorter than to spatially inconsistent pairs. These contextual effects disappeared, however, when spatial attention was drawn to one of the two object stimuli while its counterpart object was positioned outside the focus of attention and was irrelevant to task-demands. Subsequent research examined object-object and object-scene associations which are based on categorical relations, rather than on specific spatial and functional relations. Here too, processing of the semantic/categorical relations necessitated allocation of spatial attention, unless an unattended object was explicitly defined as a to-be-detected target. Collectively, our research suggests that associative and integrative contextual processes underlying scene understanding rely on the availability of spatial attentional resources. However, stimuli which comply with task-requirements (e.g., a cat/dog in an animal, but not in a vehicle detection task) may benefit from efficient processing even when appearing outside the main focus of visual attention.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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