The role of scene summary statistics in object recognition

Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 2;8(1):14666. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32991-1.


Objects that are semantically related to the visual scene context are typically better recognized than unrelated objects. While context effects on object recognition are well studied, the question which particular visual information of an object's surroundings modulates its semantic processing is still unresolved. Typically, one would expect contextual influences to arise from high-level, semantic components of a scene but what if even low-level features could modulate object processing? Here, we generated seemingly meaningless textures of real-world scenes, which preserved similar summary statistics but discarded spatial layout information. In Experiment 1, participants categorized such textures better than colour controls that lacked higher-order scene statistics while original scenes resulted in the highest performance. In Experiment 2, participants recognized briefly presented consistent objects on scenes significantly better than inconsistent objects, whereas on textures, consistent objects were recognized only slightly more accurately. In Experiment 3, we recorded event-related potentials and observed a pronounced mid-central negativity in the N300/N400 time windows for inconsistent relative to consistent objects on scenes. Critically, inconsistent objects on textures also triggered N300/N400 effects with a comparable time course, though less pronounced. Our results suggest that a scene's low-level features contribute to the effective processing of objects in complex real-world environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Semantics*
  • Young Adult