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Nicholaus S Noles, Brian J Scholl; The persistence of object-file representations. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):324. doi: 10.1167/3.9.324.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Coherent visual experience of dynamic scenes requires not only that the visual system segment scenes into component objects, but that these object representations *persist*, so that an object can be identified as the same object from an earlier time. Object-files (OFs) are visual representations thought to mediate such abilities: OFs lie between lower-level sensory processing and higher-level recognition, and track salient objects over time and motion. OFs can be studied with object-specific priming (OSP): discriminations of an object's features are speeded when an earlier preview of those features occurs on the same object, beyond general priming. Despite its popularity, many fundamental aspects of the OF framework remain unexplored. For example, though OFs are thought to be involved primarily in online visual processing, we do not know how long such representations persist: previous studies found OSP for up to 750 ms, but did not test longer durations. We explored this issue using a modified ‘object reviewing’ paradigm, and found that robust OSP effects persist for up to 5 times as long as previously tested values (at least 4 s), and possibly much longer. We will demonstrate such effects, and discuss manipulations that affect the duration over which OSP is observed. The fact that OFs persist for extended durations raises the possibility that they may be involved in other sorts of perceptual processing, across longer durations. These findings also bear on research in infant cognition, where OFs are thought to explain infants' abilities to track and enumerate small sets of objects. Because such infancy experiments typically involve longer delays, the extended persistence we observe raises the possibility that the same OF representations may be operating in infancy and adult visual cognition. Object files may be involved primarily in momentary online processing, but they can also persist to support the identification of persisting objects across temporal gaps.
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