August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
The Effect of Semantic and Syntactic Object Properties on Attentional Allocation in Naturalistic Scenes
Author Affiliations
  • George Malcolm
    Department of Psychology, The George Washington Unviersity
  • Sarah Shomstein
    Department of Psychology, The George Washington Unviersity
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 26. doi:
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      George Malcolm, Sarah Shomstein; The Effect of Semantic and Syntactic Object Properties on Attentional Allocation in Naturalistic Scenes. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):26.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Humans preferentially attend to objects over backgrounds when viewing scenes (e.g., Henderson, 2003), making object properties an integral component to understanding attentional orienting. Previous research investigating object properties' effect on attention has generally focused on low-level features (e.g., color; Wolfe, 1994) or boundaries (e.g., Egly et al., 1994). However, real-world environments are cluttered with different objects that are rich with semantic properties. Here we investigated how semantic and syntactic relationships between objects affect attentional allocation. In an initial series of experiments designed to test semantic biasing of attention, we presented participants with an object at fixation and two more in the periphery that varied in semantic relation to the fixated object (e.g., a mailbox at fixation and an envelope and light bulb in the periphery). Objects appeared for a duration ranging from 250-2000ms prior to target/distractors onsetting on the objects. The semantic relationship between objects was found to facilitate responses to targets on semantically related objects at earlier durations (750ms), while at longer durations (>1250ms) inhibition-of-return biased attention to targets on non-related objects. The results thus demonstrate that semantic information affects attentional allocation early and, in particular, biases in favor of semantically-related objects. A series of eye-tracking experiments were then conducted in order to examine syntactic as well as semantic relations of supporting surfaces on attentional allocation. It was observed that participants initiated saccades faster to objects on the same surface as well as to semantically related surfaces. Taken together, these results suggest that, despite semantic and syntactic information not predicting target location, the visual system continually utilizes this information to bias attentional allocation when viewing naturalistic displays.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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