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Diagnostic colours contribute to the early stages of scene categorization: Behavioural and neurophysiological evidence

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We examined the effects of colour cues on the express categorization of natural scenes. Using a go/no‐go paradigm sensitive to fast recognition processes, we measured early event‐related potential (ERP) correlates of scene categorization to elucidate the processing stage at which colour contributes to scene recognition. Observers were presented with scenes belonging to four colour‐diagnostic categories (desert, forest, canyon and coastline). Scenes were presented in one of three forms: Diagnostically coloured, nondiagnostically coloured, or greyscale images. In a verification task, observers were instructed to respond whenever the presented stimulus matched a previously presented category name. Reaction times and accuracy were optimal when the stimuli were presented as their original diagnostically coloured version, followed by their greyscale version, and lastly by their nondiagostically coloured version. These effects were mirrored in the early (i.e., 150 ms following stimulus onset) ERP frontal correlates. Their onset was delayed for greyscale scenes compared to diagnostically coloured scenes, and for nondiagnostically coloured scenes compared to the other two conditions. Frontal ERP amplitudes also decreased for greyscale and nondiagnostically coloured scenes. Together, the results suggest that diagnostic colours are part of the scene gist responsible for express scene categorization.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Face Categorization Lab, UCL, Louvain‐la‐Neuve, and Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie, UCL, Bruxelles, Belgium

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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