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Celia Durkin, Zarrar Shehzad, Eric Kandel, Daphna Shohamy; Effects of perceptual and categorical novelty on construal level. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1700. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1700.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
How do different types of novelty create an abstract mindset? The idea that different cues elicit different levels of abstraction has been suggested by several theories. Construal Level Theory suggests we mentally represent (construe) events at different levels of abstraction based on psychological distance. Events and objects that are close in space and time elicit concrete representations while events and objects that are farther in space and time elicit more abstract representations. Novelty Categorization Theory suggests that when we encounter a novel stimulus, we adopt a more abstract mindset in order to integrate the new stimulus into existing knowledge structures. While novelty has been shown to increase construal and facilitate global processing, how different forms of novelty affect processing-level is unknown. We examine the effect of perceptual and categorical novelty on construal of art. Participants viewed a sequence of representational and abstract paintings and decided whether each would hang in a gallery opening tomorrow or in one year. To quantify perceptual-level novelty, we used similarity metrics from Matlab’s Structural Similarity Index, a measure of low-level visual features. To quantify category-level novelty, we extracted the output layer of VGG16, a neural network trained on object recognition, and a measure of higher-level visual features. Finally, we obtained human pairwise comparisons. Using MDS, we transformed each of the metrics into three similarity spaces. We found that novelty type differentially affects construal. Paintings that were categorically novel (distant from the previous stimulus in VGG16 space) were more likely to hang in a gallery opening in one year, while there was no difference in construal for paintings that were perceptually novel (distant from the previous stimulus in SSIM space). These results suggest that perceptual vs. categorical novelty influence distance judgements differently and suggests that category-level novelty may be more effective at creating an abstract mindset.
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