Contextual and spatial associations between objects interactively modulate visual processing
SourceCerebral Cortex, 30, 12, (2020), pp. 6391-6404
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
Much of what we know about object recognition arises from the study of isolated objects. In the real world, however, we commonly encounter groups of contextually associated objects (e.g., teacup and saucer), often in stereotypical spatial configurations (e.g., teacup above saucer). Here we used electroencephalography to test whether identity-based associations between objects (e.g., teacup–saucer vs. teacup-stapler) are encoded jointly with their typical relative positioning (e.g., teacup above saucer vs. below saucer). Observers viewed a 2.5-Hz image stream of contextually associated object pairs intermixed with nonassociated pairs as every fourth image. The differential response to nonassociated pairs (measurable at 0.625 Hz in 28/37 participants) served as an index of contextual integration, reflecting the association of object identities in each pair. Over right occipitotemporal sites, this signal was larger for typically positioned object streams, indicating that spatial configuration facilitated the extraction of the objects' contextual association. This high-level influence of spatial configuration on object identity integration arose ~ 320 ms post-stimulus onset, with lower-level perceptual grouping (shared with inverted displays) present at ~ 130 ms. These results demonstrate that contextual and spatial associations between objects interactively influence object processing. We interpret these findings as reflecting the high-level perceptual grouping of objects that frequently co-occur in highly stereotyped relative positions.
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