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Colin S. Flowers, Mary A. Peterson; Semantic category priming from the groundside of objects shown in nontarget locations and at unpredictable times. Journal of Vision 2018;18(13):3. doi: 10.1167/18.13.3.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research demonstrated that familiar objects that are suggested, but not consciously perceived, on the groundside of the contours of a figure activate their semantic category during perceptual organization, at least when the figure appears at fixation at an expected time. Here, we investigate whether evidence for such semantic activation extends to stimuli presented at unpredictable times in peripheral locations. Participants categorized words shown centrally as denoting natural or artificial objects (Experiments 1 and 2a) or positive or negative concepts (Experiment 2b). Prior to the word, two distractor silhouettes appeared above and below fixation; both depicted novel figures. On experimental trials, portions of well-known (familiar) objects were suggested on the groundside of the borders of one (Experiment 1) or both (Experiment 2a and 2b) silhouettes. In Experiment 1, reaction times were slower when targets words were preceded by experimental distractor silhouettes regardless of whether the object suggested on the groundside of their borders was in the same or a different category as the object denoted by the word. Overall slowing may have occurred because (a) semantic category access by objects suggested on the groundside of experimental distractor silhouettes was sufficient to require filtering but not category-specific priming, (b) more competition for object status slowed processing of experimental compared to control silhouettes, or (c) featural differences increased the difficulty of processing the experimental versus the control silhouettes. The use of two identical experimental silhouettes in Experiment 2a allowed a semantic category priming effect to emerge, showing that the categories of objects suggested on the groundside of silhouette borders can be activated at unpredictable times in nontarget locations and in more than one location of the visual field. Experiment 2a suggested that (a) better explains the results of Experiment 1 than (b and c). Experiment 2b further ruled out explanations (b and c) as reasons for the Experiment 1 results by showing that the same pattern is not obtained when the semantic category of the objects suggested on the groundside of the experimental silhouettes borders is not task-relevant and does not require filtering. Thus, spatial prime-target congruence and temporal certainty are not necessary for priming by objects suggested on the groundside of figures. Implications for our understanding of the complex processes involved in perceptual organization are considered.
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