Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Thomas Sanocki

Keywords

attentional capture, attentional control, object recognition, scene context

Abstract

This paper describes a sequence of experiments addressing basic questions about the control of visual attention and the relationship between attention and object recognition. This work reviews compelling findings addressing attentional control on the basis of high-level perceptual properties. In five experiments observers were presented with a rapid sequence of object photographs and instructed to either detect or selectively encode a verbally cued object category. When these object categories (e.g. "baseball") were preceded by contextual images associated with a given object category (e.g. "baseball diamond"), observers were less likely to accurately report information about the target item. This effect obtained with both detection and discrimination measures. This evidence of attentional capture is particularly strong because associated contexts typically enhance object detection or discrimination, whereas here they harmed performance. These findings demonstrate that observers use relatively abstract and elaborated representations when selecting visual objects on the basis of category. Further, even when observers attempt to ignore depictions of associated contexts these images engage perceptual processing. That is, while participants were able to determine the target of their search categorically, they had relatively little control over the specific types of representations and information employed when performing an object search task. After reviewing these five experiments, conclusions regarding the use of object-context association knowledge in vision are addressed.

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