Ultra Rapid Object Categorization: Effects of Level, Animacy and Context

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It is widely agreed that in object categorization bottom-up and top-down influences interact. How top-down processes affect categorization has been primarily investigated in isolation, with only one higher level process at a time being manipulated. Here, we investigate the combination of different top-down influences (by varying the level of category, the animacy and the background of the object) and their effect on rapid object categorization. Subjects participated in a two-alternative forced choice rapid categorization task, while we measured accuracy and reaction times. Subjects had to categorize objects on the superordinate, basic or subordinate level. Objects belonged to the category animal or vehicle and each object was presented on a gray, congruent (upright) or incongruent (inverted) background. The results show that each top-down manipulation impacts object categorization and that they interact strongly. The best categorization was achieved on the superordinate level, providing no advantage for basic level in rapid categorization. Categorization between vehicles was faster than between animals on the basic level and vice versa on the subordinate level. Objects in homogenous gray background (context) yielded better overall performance than objects embedded in complex scenes, an effect most prominent on the subordinate level. An inverted background had no negative effect on object categorization compared to upright scenes. These results show how different top-down manipulations, such as category level, category type and background information, are related. We discuss the implications of top-down interactions on the interpretation of categorization results.




Praß, M., Grimsen, C., König, M., & Fahle, M. (2013). Ultra Rapid Object Categorization: Effects of Level, Animacy and Context. PLoS ONE, 8(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068051

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