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J Exp Psychol Gen. 1979 Sep;108(3):316-55.

Framing pictures: the role of knowledge in automatized encoding and memory for gist.


In general, frame theories are theories about the representation and use of knowledge for pattern recognition. In the present article, the general properties of frame theories are discussed with regard to their implications for psychological processes, and an experiment is presented which tests whether this approach yields viable predictions about the manner in which people comprehend and remember pictures of real-world scenes. Normative ratings were used to construct six target pictures, each of which contained both expected and unexpected objects. Eye movements were then recorded as subjects who anticipated a difficult recognition test viewed the targets for 30 sec each. Then, the subjects were asked to discriminate the target pictures from distractors in which either expected or unexpected objects had been changed. One consequence of the embeddedness of frame systems is that global frames may function as "semantic pattern detectors," so that the perceptual knowledge in them could be used for relatively automatic pattern recognition and comprehension. Thus, subjects might be able to identify expected objects by using automatized encoding procedures that operate on global physical features. In contrast, identification of unexpected objects (i.e., objects not represented in the currently active frame) should generally require more analysis of local visual details. These hypotheses were confirmed with the fixation duration data: First fixations to the unexpected objects were approximately twice as long as first fixations to the expected objects. On the recognition test, subjects generally noticed only the changes that had been made to the unexpected objects, despite the fact that the proportions of correct rejections were made conditional on whether the target objects had been fixated. These data are again consistent with the idea that local visual details of objects represented in the frame are not neccesary for identification and are thus not generally encoded. Further, since subjects usually did not notice when expected objects were deleted or replaced with different expected objects, it was concluded that if two events instantiate the same frame, they may often be indistinguishable, as long as any differences between them are represented as arguments in the frame. Thus, for the most part, the only information about an event that is episodically "tagged" is information which distinguishes that particular event from others of the same general class. The data reinforce the utility of a frame theory approach to perception and memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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