In this report, we explored the features that support visual search for broadly inclusive natural categories. We used a paradigm in which subjects searched for a randomly selected target from one category (e.g., one of 32 line drawings of artifacts or animals in displays ranging from three to nine items) among a mixed set of distractors from the other. We found that search was surprisingly fast. Target-present slopes for animal targets among artifacts ranged from 10.8 to 16.0 msec/item, and slopes for artifact targets ranged from 5.5 to 6.2 msec/item. Experiments 2-5 tested factors that affect both the speed of the search and the search asymmetry favoring detection of artifacts among animals. They converge on the conclusion that target-distractor differences in global contour shape (e.g., rectilinearity/ curvilinearity) and visual typicality of parts and form facilitate search by category. We argue that existing theories are helpful in understanding these findings but that they need to be supplemented to account for the specific features that specify categories and to account for subjects' ability to quickly locate targets representing heterogeneous and formally complex categories.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Sensory Systems