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Categorical templates are more useful when features are consistent: evidence from eye-movements during search for societally important vehicles

Categorical templates are more useful when features are consistent: evidence from eye-movements during search for societally important vehicles
Categorical templates are more useful when features are consistent: evidence from eye-movements during search for societally important vehicles
Unlike in laboratory visual search tasks—wherein participants are typically presented with a pictorial representation of the item they are asked to seek out—in real-world searches, the observer rarely has veridical knowledge of the visual features that define their target. During categorical search, observers look for any instance of a categorically defined target (e.g., helping a family member look for their mobile phone). In these circumstances, people may not have information about noncritical features (e.g., the phone’s color), and must instead create a broad mental representation using the features that define (or are typical of) the category of objects they are seeking out (e.g., modern phones are typically rectangular and thin). In the current investigation (Experiment 1), using a categorical visual search task, we add to the body of evidence suggesting that categorical templates are effective enough to conduct efficient visual searches. When color information was available (Experiment 1a), attentional guidance, attention restriction, and object identification were enhanced when participants looked for categories with consistent features (e.g., ambulances) relative to categories with more variable features (e.g., sedans). When color information was removed (Experiment 1b), attention benefits disappeared, but object recognition was still better for feature-consistent target categories. In Experiment 2, we empirically validated the relative homogeneity of our societally important vehicle stimuli. Taken together, our results are in line with a category-consistent view of categorical target templates (Yu, Maxfield, & Zelinsky in, Psychological Science, 2016. doi: 10.1177/0956797616640237), and suggest that when features of a category are consistent and predictable, searchers can create mental representations that allow for the efficient guidance and restriction of attention as well as swift object identification.
1943-3921
1578–1592
Hout, Michael C.
6284da91-ecbd-4e5b-8a61-1332645c0665
Robbins, Arryn
39255b8b-8bbf-4d39-92e1-59d51a351e07
Godwin, Hayward J.
df22dc0c-01d1-440a-a369-a763801851e5
Fitzsimmons, Gemma
ac6b7c69-8992-44f1-92ca-05aa22e75129
Scarince, Collin
6926b913-a481-4594-a2e7-e4cefb299a0e
Hout, Michael C.
6284da91-ecbd-4e5b-8a61-1332645c0665
Robbins, Arryn
39255b8b-8bbf-4d39-92e1-59d51a351e07
Godwin, Hayward J.
df22dc0c-01d1-440a-a369-a763801851e5
Fitzsimmons, Gemma
ac6b7c69-8992-44f1-92ca-05aa22e75129
Scarince, Collin
6926b913-a481-4594-a2e7-e4cefb299a0e

Hout, Michael C., Robbins, Arryn, Godwin, Hayward J., Fitzsimmons, Gemma and Scarince, Collin (2017) Categorical templates are more useful when features are consistent: evidence from eye-movements during search for societally important vehicles. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76 (6), 1578–1592. (doi:10.3758/s13414-017-1354-1).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Unlike in laboratory visual search tasks—wherein participants are typically presented with a pictorial representation of the item they are asked to seek out—in real-world searches, the observer rarely has veridical knowledge of the visual features that define their target. During categorical search, observers look for any instance of a categorically defined target (e.g., helping a family member look for their mobile phone). In these circumstances, people may not have information about noncritical features (e.g., the phone’s color), and must instead create a broad mental representation using the features that define (or are typical of) the category of objects they are seeking out (e.g., modern phones are typically rectangular and thin). In the current investigation (Experiment 1), using a categorical visual search task, we add to the body of evidence suggesting that categorical templates are effective enough to conduct efficient visual searches. When color information was available (Experiment 1a), attentional guidance, attention restriction, and object identification were enhanced when participants looked for categories with consistent features (e.g., ambulances) relative to categories with more variable features (e.g., sedans). When color information was removed (Experiment 1b), attention benefits disappeared, but object recognition was still better for feature-consistent target categories. In Experiment 2, we empirically validated the relative homogeneity of our societally important vehicle stimuli. Taken together, our results are in line with a category-consistent view of categorical target templates (Yu, Maxfield, & Zelinsky in, Psychological Science, 2016. doi: 10.1177/0956797616640237), and suggest that when features of a category are consistent and predictable, searchers can create mental representations that allow for the efficient guidance and restriction of attention as well as swift object identification.

Text
Hout et al APP2017 - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 25 August 2018.
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 25 May 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 21 June 2017
Organisations: Research Performance, Psychology, Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 410535
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/410535
ISSN: 1943-3921
PURE UUID: 0b94ad61-e789-4970-90d1-56830238481e
ORCID for Gemma Fitzsimmons: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4519-0499

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Jun 2017 09:03
Last modified: 22 Oct 2019 01:02

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