Is object search mediated by object-based or image-based representations?

Spat Vis. 2004;17(4-5):511-41. doi: 10.1163/1568568041920140.


Recent research suggests that visually specific memory representations for previously fixated objects are maintained during scene perception. Here we investigate the degree of visual specificity by asking whether the memory representations are image-based or object-based. To that end we measured the effects of object orientation on the time to search for a familiar object from amongst a set of 7 familiar distractors arranged in a circular array. Search times were found to depend on the relative orientations of the target object and the probe object for both familiar and novel objects. This effect was found to be partly an image matching effect but there was also an advantage shown for the object's canonical view for familiar objects. Orientation effects were maintained even when the target object was specified as having unique or similar shape properties relative to the distractors. Participants' eye movements were monitored during two of the experiments. Eye movement patterns revealed selection for object shape and object orientation during the search process. Our findings provide evidence for object representations during search that are detailed and share image-based characteristics with more high-level characteristics from object memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Orientation
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception*