Categorization influences detection: A perceptual advantage for representative exemplars of natural scene categories

J Vis. 2017 Jan 1;17(1):21. doi: 10.1167/17.1.21.


Traditional models of recognition and categorization proceed from registering low-level features, perceptually organizing that input, and linking it with stored representations. Recent evidence, however, suggests that this serial model may not be accurate, with object and category knowledge affecting rather than following early visual processing. Here, we show that the degree to which an image exemplifies its category influences how easily it is detected. Participants performed a two-alternative forced-choice task in which they indicated whether a briefly presented image was an intact or phase-scrambled scene photograph. Critically, the category of the scene is irrelevant to the detection task. We nonetheless found that participants "see" good images better, more accurately discriminating them from phase-scrambled images than bad scenes, and this advantage is apparent regardless of whether participants are asked to consider category during the experiment or not. We then demonstrate that good exemplars are more similar to same-category images than bad exemplars, influencing behavior in two ways: First, prototypical images are easier to detect, and second, intact good scenes are more likely than bad to have been primed by a previous trial.

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult