Scene consistency in object and background perception

Psychol Sci. 2004 Aug;15(8):559-64. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00719.x.


Does knowledge about which objects and settings tend to co-occur affect how people interpret an image? The effects of consistency on perception were investigated using manipulated photographs containing a foreground object that was either semantically consistent or inconsistent with its setting. In four experiments, participants reported the foreground object, the setting, or both after seeing each picture for 80 ms followed by a mask. In Experiment 1, objects were identified more accurately in a consistent than an inconsistent setting. In Experiment 2, backgrounds were identified more accurately when they contained a consistent rather than an inconsistent foreground object. In Experiment 3, objects were presented without backgrounds and backgrounds without objects; comparison with the other experiments indicated that objects were identified better in isolation than when presented with a background, but there was no difference in accuracy for backgrounds whether they appeared with a foreground object or not. Finally, in Experiment 4, consistency effects remained when both objects and backgrounds were reported. Semantic consistency information is available when a scene is glimpsed briefly and affects both object and background perception. Objects and their settings are processed interactively and not in isolation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Semantics
  • Visual Perception*