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Joseph Nah, Sarah Shomstein; Task-Irrelevant Semantic Relationships Between Objects and Scene Guide Visual Attention. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):323. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.323.
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While the influence of task-relevant semantic relatedness on attentional allocation has been well established, recent behavioral evidence emerged suggesting that the influence of semantic information is not constrained by task-relevance (Malcolm, Rattinger, & Shomstein, 2016). Additionally, our most recent work provided evidence that task-irrelevant semantic relationships between objects modulate spatial attention and enhances neural representation of objects in early visual cortex. These results provide evidence that high-level semantic relationships among objects continuously guide attentional selection. However, objects rarely, if ever, appear in the absence of a scene. Thus, it is imperative to understand how the object-object semantic relationship interacts with object-scene semantic relationship to influence attentional selection. Here, we investigated the degree to which semantic relationship between objects and scenes interact to guide attentional allocation. In the first experiment, participants were presented with a scene followed by two objects appearing on either side of fixation after a brief delay. Only one of the objects was semantically related to the scene. Two Gabor wavelets then appeared, one on fixation and one on top of an object, and a checkerboard distractor on the other object. Participants reported whether the two Gabor wavelets' orientation matched. Critically, the peripheral target was equally likely to appear on either object, rendering semantic relationships task-irrelevant. Faster RT were observed for peripheral targets that appeared on the semantically related object. Importantly, RTs were directly related to the strength of scene-object relatedness (assessed by a questionnaire). In the second experiment, participants were presented with three objects, with two objects semantically related to each other and the other semantically related to the scene. Combined, the results suggest that semantic relationships between scenes and objects interact to continuously influence attentional selection, and that this influence is modulated by the strength of semantic relationships.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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