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Rosemary Cowell, Patrick Sadil, Kevin Potter, David Huber; Implicit visual recollection: Connecting the dots without top-down knowledge. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):410. doi: 10.1167/18.10.410.
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Discovering the Mooney-style Dalmatian dog against its dappled black and white background for the first time enables an observer to rapidly identify the Dalmatian on subsequent occasions. This effect of prior exposure has been explained with a top-down mechanism, in which the identity of the object (a Dalmatian) has been associated with the ambiguous collection of object parts. However, it remains unknown whether associations between the parts of the object – visual associations that are independent of the object's identity – are also learned and later retrieved to aid identification. In this study, we sought evidence for lateral associations between the visual details of objects by examining whether they can be learned and retrieved separately from any top-down influence of object identity. Participants studied objects masked by Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS), which provided exposure to the visual details of the objects while limiting awareness of objects' identities. We contrasted learning under CFS with the study of object names presented as words, which provided object identity without visual details. At test, we measured participants' performance on a part matching task (which could be performed without knowledge of object identity) and a naming task (which required retrieval of object identity based on a part cue). Using a state-trace analysis, we observed a dissociation in task performance that is best explained in terms of separable lateral and top-down associations. In a follow-up study, participants attempted to name the object from a part, then responded as quickly as possible to detect an object emerging from noise: prior study under CFS enabled quicker detection, even after failing to name the object. We conclude that object identification can be facilitated by learning and retrieval of long-lasting associations between the low-level visual parts of an object, and that these learned visual associations can support implicit "visual recollection".
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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