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Semantic guidance of attention within natural scenes

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When viewing real‐world scenes composed of a myriad of objects, detecting changes can be quite difficult, especially when transients are masked. In general, changes are noticed more quickly and accurately if they occur at the currently (or a recently) attended location. Here, we examine the effects of explicit and implicit semantic cues on the guidance of attention in a change detection task. Participants first attempted to read aloud a briefly presented prime word, then looked for a difference between two alternating versions of a real‐world scene. Helpful primes named the object that changed, while misdirecting primes named another (unchanging) object in the picture. Robust effects were found for both explicit and implicit priming conditions, with helpful primes yielding faster change detection times than misdirecting or neutral primes. This demonstrates that observers are able to use higher order semantic information as a cue to guide attention within a natural scene, even when the semantic information is presented outside of explicit awareness.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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