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Shira Baror, Moshe Bar, Elissa Aminoff; Exploring how broad associative thought enhances scene gist perception. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):620. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.620.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
While perceiving the external environment, people also engage in internal trains of thoughts - thoughts ranging from narrow and ruminative to broad and creative. Both associative thought and perceptual gist-processing were previously suggested to rely on similar contextual mechanisms, but their cross-modal interaction has not been charted yet. To that aim, we explored whether associative thought patterns influence scene-gist perception. Two experiments manipulated same/different judgments in a 1-back visual task. Scene images were identical, completely different, or different yet similar in their gist to the preceding image. Simultaneously, associative thought was manipulated via chains of words, superimposed on the images. Consecutive words were either connected by a broad association (e.g., wolf-moon-stars) or were narrowly connected (e.g., dog-cat-puppy). An additional condition involved neighboring words that were completely unrelated to one another. To verify attention to the thought manipulation during the perceptual task, experiment 1 required participants to remember the words for a following memory test. The main result shows that while on the first block gist-related performance was mostly deteriorated under the broad thought condition, by the last block perceptual performance in the broad condition was significantly facilitated and most rapid. To further dissociate the possible effect of associative thought from memory load, experiment 2 did not involve an explicit word memory test. Nonetheless, the results replicate the findings from experiment 1, showing that under the broad thought condition, gist-related perceptual performance was facilitated as the experiment progressed. To conclude, exploring the relationship between thought and perception is fundamental to understanding how sensory and mental aspects comprise our unified experiences. We show that the pattern of thought influences how we perceive and categorize our sensory world and demonstrate a cross-modal enhancement of scene gist processing during broad associative thought. We propose that this results from shared contextual associative psychological mechanisms.
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