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Chris Racey, Ruyuan Zhang, Kendrick Kay, Karen Schloss; The neural substrate for semantic associations underlies color preference judgments. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):870. doi: 10.1167/18.10.870.
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People form semantic associations with colors, which influence the way they evaluate and interpret the world. Behavioral evidence indicates that evaluations of colors (color preferences) are determined by the combined valence of all entities associated with those colors (Ecological Valence Theory; Palmer & Schloss, 2010; Schloss & Palmer, 2017). This implies that when people judge their preference for a color, semantic associates of that color are activated, and then the valences of those associates are pooled to produce the color preference response. Therefore, we predicted that brain areas involved in visual semantic processing (perirhinal cortex (PrC) in the anterior temporal lobe; Martin et al., 2017) would be recruited during color preference judgments and object association judgments, but not during perceptual judgments. We tested these predictions in a high-field fMRI study (7T, 2 mm, 1.2 s) in which naive participants (n = 10) viewed a set of calibrated color patches while performing four different tasks. We anatomically defined PrC in each subject using established criteria (Pruessner et al., 2002) and used a general linear model to estimate BOLD responses. We found that the BOLD signal in PrC remained at baseline when participants performed a fixation task ignoring the color patches (p > .05) as well as when participants judged the lightness of the color patches (p > .05). However, the BOLD signal in PrC increased when participants judged their preference for the colors (p < .05) and when participants explicitly associated objects with the colors (p < .05). Therefore, the neural substrate involved in semantic processing underlies color preference judgments, but not perceptual judgments about the same stimuli. These results provide the first evidence of a neural instantiation of the Ecological Valence Theory for color preferences, and highlight the rich diversity of neural responses that can be elicited by cognitive judgments made on simple sensory stimuli.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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