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Ester Reijnen, Anina N. Rich, Michael J. Van Wert, Jeremy M. Wolfe; The role of categorical boundaries in visual search for colour. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):681. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/7.9.681.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Colour is critically important in our complex visual world. Here, we studied the impact of colour categories on guidance of attention in visual search. In our first experiment, we compared search for a target among distractors drawn from different colour categories (across-category search) with search for a target among distractors including items from the same colour category (within-category search). Distances between target and distractors in a 3D colour space (CIE-LUV) were the same in the two conditions. Orthogonally, we manipulated the linear separability of the target and distractors. If the target could be separated from all distractors by a plane in colour space, it was linearly separable. Participants search faster and more efficiently for targets in across-category than within-category conditions. Linear separability only influenced RT when the target was not categorically unique. We replicated the category effect with more discriminable colours. In our final experiment, participants search for a target among heterogeneous distractors drawn from the remaining 10 basic colour categories as defined by Berlin and Kay (1969). Colours were not equiluminant (as this would not make much sense with a set of colours including black and white). All these searches among highly heterogeneous distractors were efficient. Relative speed of search was better explained by relative luminance than by the position of colours in Berlin and Kay's linguistic hierarchy. These results demonstrate that, beyond effects of target-distractor similarity, distractor-distractor heterogeneity, and linear separability, the colour categorical status of the target has a significant effect on guidance of attention in visual search.
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