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Svenja Marx, Onno Hansen-Goos, Michael Thrun, Wolfgang Einhäuser; Rapid serial processing of natural scenes: Color modulates detection but neither recognition nor the attentional blink. Journal of Vision 2014;14(14):4. doi: 10.1167/14.14.4.
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The exact function of color vision for natural-scene perception has remained puzzling. In rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) tasks, categorically defined targets (e.g., animals) are detected typically slightly better for color than for grayscale stimuli. Here we test the effect of color on animal detection, recognition, and the attentional blink. We present color and grayscale RSVP sequences with up to two target images (animals) embedded. In some conditions, we modify either the hue or the intensity of each pixel. We confirm a benefit of color over grayscale images for animal detection over a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs), with improved hit rates from 50 to 120 ms and overall improved performance from 90 to 120 ms. For stimuli in which the hue is inverted, performance is similar to grayscale for small SOAs and indistinguishable from original color only for large SOAs. For subordinate category discrimination, color provides no additional benefit. Color and grayscale sequences show an attentional blink, but differences between color and grayscale are fully explained by single-target differences, ruling out the possibility that the color benefit is purely attentional.
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