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Chenxiao Guan, Chaz Firestone; The automaticity of Tetris: Disconnected 'parts' activate visual representations of their potential 'wholes'. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1317. doi: 10.1167/18.10.1317.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Some properties of objects are intrinsic to the objects themselves, whereas other properties encompass that object's relationship to other objects or events in a scene. For example, when completing a jigsaw puzzle, we might notice not only the singular properties of an individual piece (e.g., its particular shape), but also its relationship to other pieces — including its ability to combine with another piece to form a new object. Here, we explore how the visual system represents the potential for two discrete objects to create something new. Our experiments were inspired by the puzzle game Tetris, in which players combine various shapes to build larger composite objects. Subjects saw a stream of images presented individually, and simply had to respond whenever they saw a certain target image (such as a complete square), and not at any other time. The stream also included distractor images consisting of object-pairs (shaped like the "tetrominoes" of Tetris) that either could or could not combine to produce the subject's target. Accuracy was very high, but subjects occasionally false-alarmed to the distractor images. Remarkably, subjects were more likely to false-alarm to tetromino-pairs that could create their target than to tetromino-pairs that could not, even though both kinds of images were visually dissimilar to the target. We also observed a priming effect, whereby target responses were faster when the previous trial showed tetrominoes that could create the target vs. tetrominoes that could not. Follow-up experiments revealed that these effects were not simply due to a general response bias favoring matching shapes, nor were the results explained simply by representational momentum due to perceived "gravity" (since the effects generalized to 90-degree rotations of the tetromino-pair images). These results suggest that the mind automatically and rapidly evaluates discrete objects for their potential to combine into something new.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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