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Psychon Bull Rev. 2011 Oct;18(5):890-6. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0107-8.

Scene context influences without scene gist: eye movements guided by spatial associations in visual search.

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Department of Psychology, Queen's University, 62 Arch St., Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada.


Although the use of semantic information about the world seems ubiquitous in every task we perform, it is not clear whether we rely on a scene's semantic information to guide attention when searching for something in a specific scene context (e.g., keys in one's living room). To address this question, we compared contribution of a scene's semantic information (i.e., scene gist) versus learned spatial associations between objects and context. Using the flash-preview-moving-window paradigm Castelhano and Henderson (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 33:753-763, 2007), participants searched for target objects that were placed in either consistent or inconsistent locations and were semantically consistent or inconsistent with the scene gist. The results showed that learned spatial associations were used to guide search even in inconsistent contexts, providing evidence that scene context can affect search performance without consistent scene gist information. We discuss the results in terms of hierarchical organization of top-down influences of scene context.

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