Perceptual processing is facilitated by ascribing meaning to novel stimuli

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Can the interpretation of a visual stimulus (normally conceived as a late visual process) influence the recognition of that same stimulus (normally conceived as an early visual process)? Access of meaning from vision can be extremely rapid [1-3]. If the visual processing of meaningful stimuli is supported by top-down feedback from conceptual representations [4,5], then meaningful stimuli may be processed more efficiently than meaningless stimuli. A difficulty with testing this prediction is that meaningfulness is often confounded with familiarity. It is well established that familiar stimuli are easier to process than unfamiliar stimuli [6]. In visual search tasks, finding a target among unfamiliar non-targets (such as {A figure is presented}s) is much more effortful than searching among familiar non-targets (such as {A figure is presented}s) [7]. However, poor performance on unfamiliar stimuli may be due, not only to inexperience with them, but also to a failure to represent them as members of meaningful categories. If so, then ascribing meaning to otherwise unfamiliar stimuli should facilitate perceptual processing. We report here data from experiments using a visual search task which show that, when perceptually novel stimuli are treated as members of a known category, they are processed more efficiently. These results are simulated by a model implementing top-down feedback from category representations to visual features. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.




Lupyan, G., & Spivey, M. J. (2008, May 20). Perceptual processing is facilitated by ascribing meaning to novel stimuli. Current Biology.

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