Irrelevant objects of expertise compete with faces during visual search.

McGugin RW, McKeeff TJ, Tong F, Gauthier I
Atten Percept Psychophys. 2011 73 (2): 309-17

PMID: 21264705 · PMCID: PMC3044323 · DOI:10.3758/s13414-010-0006-5

Prior work suggests that nonface objects of expertise can interfere with the perception of faces when the two categories are alternately presented, suggesting competition for shared perceptual resources. Here, we ask whether task-irrelevant distractors from a category of expertise compete when faces are presented in a standard visual search task. Participants searched for a target (face or sofa) in an array containing both relevant and irrelevant distractors. The number of distractors from the target category (face or sofa) remained constant, whereas the number of distractors from the irrelevant category (cars) varied. Search slopes, calculated as a function of the number of irrelevant cars, were correlated with car expertise. The effect was not due to car distractors grabbing attention, because they did not compete with sofa targets. Objects of expertise interfere with face perception even when they are task irrelevant, visually distinct, and separated in space from faces.

MeSH Terms (13)

Attention Awareness Discrimination (Psychology) Face Female Humans Male Orientation Pattern Recognition, Visual Practice (Psychology) Reaction Time Recognition (Psychology) Young Adult

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