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The role of color in expert object recognition

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Quoc Vuong


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In the current study, we examined how color knowledge in a domain of expertise influences the accuracy and speed of object recognition. In Experiment 1, expert bird-watchers and novice participants categorized common birds (e.g., robin, sparrow, cardinal) at the family level of abstraction. The bird images were shown in their natural congruent color, nonnatural incongruent color, and gray scale. The main finding was that color affected the performance of bird experts and bird novices, albeit in different ways. Although both experts and novices relied on color to recognize birds at the family level, analysis of the response time distribution revealed that color facilitated expert performance in the fastest and slowest trials whereas color only helped the novices in the slower trials. In Experiment 2, expert bird-watchers were asked to categorize congruent color, incongruent color, and gray scale images of birds at the more subordinate, species level (e.g., Nashville warbler, Wilson's warbler). The performance of experts was better with congruent color images than with incongruent color and gray scale images. As in Experiment 1, analysis of the response time distribution showed that the color effect was present in the fastest trials and was sustained through the slowest trials. Collectively, the findings show that experts have ready access to color knowledge that facilitates their fast and accurate identification at the family and species level of recognition.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hagen S, Vuong QC, Scott LS, Curran T, Tanaka JW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Vision

Year: 2014

Volume: 14

Issue: 9

Pages: 1-13

Online publication date: 11/08/2014

Acceptance date: 12/06/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1534-7362

Publisher: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology


DOI: 10.1167/14.9.9


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