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How Are Different Properties of a Scene Encoded in Visual Memory?

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Recent studies in scene perception suggest that much of what observers believe they see is not retained in visual memory. Depending on the roles they play in organizing the perception of a scene, different visual properties may require different amounts of attention to be incorporated into a mental representation of the scene. The goal of this study was to compare how three visual properties of scenes, colour, object position, and object presence, are encoded in visual memory. We used a variation on the change detection "flicker" task and measured the time to detect scene changes when: (1) a cue was provided regarding the type of change; and, (2) no cue was provided. We hypothesized that cueing would enhance the processing of visual properties that require more attention to be encoded into scene representations, whereas cueing would not have an effect for properties that are readily or automatically encoded in visual memory. In Experiment 1, we found that there was a cueing advantage for colour changes, but not for position or presence changes. In Experiment 2, we found the same cueing effect regardless of whether the colour change altered the configuration of the scene or not. These results are consistent with the idea that properties that typically help determine the configuration of the scene, for example, position and presence, are better encoded in scene representations than are surface properties such as colour.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-01-01

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