Coarse blobs or fine edges? Evidence that information diagnosticity changes the perception of complex visual stimuli

Cogn Psychol. 1997 Oct;34(1):72-107. doi: 10.1006/cogp.1997.0667.


Efficient categorizations of complex visual stimuli require effective encodings of their distinctive properties. However, the question remains of how processes of object and scene categorization use the information associated with different perceptual spatial scales. The psychophysics of scale perception suggests that recognition uses coarse blobs before fine scale edges, because the former is perceptually available before the latter. Although possible, this perceptually determined scenario neglects the nature of the task the recognition system must solve. If different spatial scales transmit different information about the input, an identical scene might be flexibly encoded and perceived at the scale that optimizes information for the considered task-i.e., the diagnostic scale. This paper tests the hypothesis that scale diagnosticity can determine scale selection for recognition. Experiment 1 tested whether coarse and fine spatial scales were both available at the onset of scene categorization. The second experiment tested that the selection of one scale could change depending on the diagnostic information present at this scale. The third and fourth experiments investigated whether scale-specific cues were independently processed, or whether they perceptually cooperated in the recognition of the input scene. Results suggest that a mandatory low-level registration of multiple spatial scales promotes flexible scene encodings, perceptions, and categorizations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Size Perception / physiology*