Automatic access to object identity: attention to global information, not to particular physical dimensions, is important

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1995 Jun;21(3):584-601. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.21.3.584.


The authors examined whether, by attending to physical properties of objects, participants can prevent the activation of semantic information. Participants received a reference object followed by a display containing both a matching target and a distractor. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants attended to motion and to surface texture, respectively. Some evidence for the processing of semantic information occurred. This result contrasted with a previous study in which no evidence for semantic information processing was apparent in a color matching task (M. Boucart & G.W. Humphreys, 1994). In Experiment 3, pictures were used with outline contours composed of randomly distributed red and green dots, one color being overrepresented. Participants matched pictures according to the dominant color. Evidence for semantic processing emerged. The authors suggest that these results cannot be explained in terms of attention operating differently on separate physiological channels. Instead it is proposed that what is crucial in activating stored object representations is whether the global configuration of the picture is processed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Color Perception
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Motion Perception
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics
  • Surface Properties