Reading Scenes: A Hierarchical View on Attentional Guidance in Real-World Environments – Melissa Le-Hoa Võ (Scene Grammar Lab, Goethe University Frankfurt)

January 28, 2022 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Zoom meeting
Yasmin Fouani-Eckstein

The sources that guide attention are manifold and interact in complex ways. Internal goals, task rules, or salient external stimuli have shown to be some of the strongholds of attentional control. But what guides attention in complex, real-world environments? I have been arguing for a while now that attention during scene viewing is mainly controlled by generic scene knowledge regarding the meaningful composition of objects that make up a scene (a.k.a. scene grammar). Contrary to arbitrary target objects placed in random arrays of distractors, objects in naturalistic scenes are placed in a very rule-governed manner. That is, different types of scene priors — i.e. expectations regarding what objects (scene semantics) are supposed to be where (scene syntax) within a scene — strongly guide attention. Violating such semantic and syntactic scene priors results in differential ERP responses similar to the ones observed in sentence processing and might suggest some commonality in the mechanisms for processing meaning and structure across a wide variety of cognitive tasks. In this talk, I will highlight some recent projects from my lab in which we have tried to shed more light on the hierarchical nature of scene grammar. In particular, a certain type of objects, which we have started to call “anchor objects”, seems to play a crucial role during visual search, object perception and memory in naturalistic environments.

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