Object detection in natural scenes: Independent effects of spatial and category-based attention
SourceAttention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79, 3, (2017), pp. 738-752
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
Humans are remarkably efficient in detecting highly familiar object categories in natural scenes, with evidence suggesting that such object detection can be performed in the (near) absence of attention. Here we systematically explored the influences of both spatial attention and category-based attention on the accuracy of object detection in natural scenes. Manipulating both types of attention additionally allowed for addressing how these factors interact: whether the requirement for spatial attention depends on the extent to which observers are prepared to detect a specific object category - that is, on category-based attention. The results showed that the detection of targets from one category (animals or vehicles) was better than the detection of targets from two categories (animals and vehicles), demonstrating the beneficial effect of category-based attention. This effect did not depend on the semantic congruency of the target object and the background scene, indicating that observers attended to visual features diagnostic of the foreground target objects from the cued category. Importantly, in three experiments the detection of objects in scenes presented in the periphery was significantly impaired when observers simultaneously performed an attentionally demanding task at fixation, showing that spatial attention affects natural scene perception. In all experiments, the effects of category-based attention and spatial attention on object detection performance were additive rather than interactive. Finally, neither spatial nor category-based attention influenced metacognitive ability for object detection performance. These findings demonstrate that efficient object detection in natural scenes is independently facilitated by spatial and category-based attention.
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