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How long to get to the “gist” of real‐world natural scenes?

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This study aimed at assessing the processing time of a natural scene in a fast categorization task of its context or “gist”. In Experiment 1, human subjects performed 4 go/no‐go categorization tasks in succession with colour pictures of real‐world scenes belonging to 2 natural categories: “Sea” and “mountain”, and 2 artificial categories: “Indoor” and “urban”. Experiment 2 used colour and grey‐level scenes in the same tasks to assess the role of colour cues on performance. Pictures were flashed for 26 ms. Both experiments showed that the gist of real‐world scenes can be extracted with high accuracy (>90%), short median RT (400–460 ms) and early responses triggered with latencies as short as 260–300 ms. Natural scenes were processed faster than artificial scenes. Categories for which colour could have a diagnostic value were processed faster in colour than in grey. Finally, processing speed is compared for scene and object categorization tasks.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition, UMR 5549 (CNRS‐UPS), Toulouse, France

Publication date: August 1, 2005


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