People Learn to See Certain Objects Based on Color & Other Factors of Perception
This research investigates the ways in which individuals "learn" to see certain objects. Despite our common-sense understanding of perception as being biologically based, in fact a number of experiments have demonstrated that we "learn" to see objects due to situational cues including color. However, not all individuals learn to distinguish objects on a visual basis in the same way due to differences in both perceptual and cognitive abilities. Moreover, some skills that might seem to be cognitively grouped are not. This experiment, in which subjects are asked to arrange objects in a hierarchical fashion, attempts to ascertain the influences that various factors have on the perception of objects.
While we may believe that we perceive different attributes of objects in dependently from one another, this is not in fact the case. For example, the color of an object "bleeds" over into our perceptions of its weight. This is true even when subjects though the subjects in this experiment clearly understood, as do the rest of us, that color and weight are independent properties of each other. Nevertheless, humans have a tendency to conflate color with other attributes even as they simultaneously understand that such attributes are independent of each other.
Thus, for example, if a subject is handed an object that is both heavy and blue, she is likely to treat the next object that she is handed that is blue as if it too were likely to be heavy. This experiment is designed to determine which attributes people are most likely to confound with color: weight, shape or texture.
The neurological or psychological reason that humans may tend to conflate the color of an object with its other attributes is that we perceive colors relationally - that is, in relationship to other colors. The fact that we seem neurologically programmed to perceive colors in terms of their connections with other colors may translate to a tendency to see colors in relationship to other, non-color attributes:
In human visual experience, colors appear as interrelated sensations that cannot be predicted from the response generated from viewing colors in isolation. People can make consistent evaluations of the magnitude of any given experience of colors based on the type of interaction among colors. People respond to the relationships among colors.
Color experience is governed by well-defined objective principles that can be quantified. These principles are applicable to a wide variety of disciplines. For instance, in interface design, color can reinforce information by providing a visual "counterpoint." In image reproduction, "color matching" becomes a matter of "preserving" the experience of color.
When subjects are asked to place objects that are possessed of a number of different attributes in hierarchical arrangements they often arrange objects in terms of traits that are impermanent - although this seems highly counterintuitive. However, it does seem that an important part of the human assessment of an object has to do with our assessment of that object vis-a-vis both adjacent objects as well as any perceptible background.
In other words, we classify objects by what they are next to at least as much as by clearly inherent attributes like color. This confounds what must be a widely held commonsense belief that the location of an object is perceived differently from various other attributes; we would assume that location would be "coded" in a different way than, for example color or shape because we understand that in general that color and shape are far more permanent attributes of items than is position.
The fact that we link attributes when arranging and categorizing objects even though we are aware of the fact that these attributes are entirely separate from each other indicates that there is an involuntary and profound cause for such a linkage that may lie in the very ways in which our brains are structured as the following summation of research on this topic suggests:
1) We have provided evidence that the frontal attentional system acts to set expectancies about the salient or to-be-attended dimension of an attribute when discrimination between attributes is required.
2) We have shown that "unattended" attributes, like attended ones, are processed, and that such processing occurs in posterior regions of the brain. The specific posterior regions activated depend on the nature of the attribute (e.g., color vs. form).
3) We have shown that activity in the anterior cingulate cortex is mainly involved in attentional processes that serve to mediate response conflict as compared to conflict at other levels of processing (e.g., semantic, perceptual).
This is consistent with the fact that despite our cognitive distinction between attributes like shape and color, our perceptual field addresses them in a similar way. Fox and De Fockert (2001) found that that not only do we conflate permanent attributes but that we also conflate temporary ones:
the visual system segments the visual field into elements against a background and calculates the "strength" of the sensory evidence for each of these elements. The key point is that these measures of strength are considered to operate in parallel across the perceptual categories of color, shape, and location. In other words, location holds no special place in this theory but operates in a similar way to other stimulus attributes.
What these and other experiments suggest is that our perceptual processes is an analytical one in which the human brain breaks down objects into clearly distinguishable attributes such as color, shape, size, weight and location. Some of these attributes are then considered independently of each other, such as color and location.
These independently assessed variables seem to be given equal perceptual weight even though on a cognitive level we recognize that some attributes are permanent and move with objects while others do not. Other attributes, such as color and weight, are apparently considered as related if not precisely dependent upon one another.
The literature on attribute perception of objects leads us to believe that certain attributes of an object are linked cognitively while others are not. This experiment is designed to see which of attributes are in fact linked together during perception, which are independent, and which are the most important in terms of attention.
In this experiment, subjects will be allowed to look at a group of objects placed on a table three feet in front of them for varying periods of time, from10 seconds to two minutes. The objects will be relatively abstract blocks of different sizes, shapes, textures and colors and will be arranged against different backgrounds.
After viewing the objects for the time set for each phase of the experiment, the subjects will be asked to compose a list of what they have just seen. This list will then be compared to the list of objects that were actually present.
It may be assumed that the subjects will each forget some objects, and their omissions will provide clues about how we "learn" to attend to physical objects. For example, if subjects remember all of the items that are clustered together in one corner but fail to remember other items scattered around the table even though they are of the same sort that are in the cluster, we may conclude that location and proximity are important "attentional" clues.
If, however, subjects are more likely to remember all the objects that are a single color (all of the blue items, for example), we may conclude that color is more dominant than location. The same would hold for shape if, for example, the subject remembered all of the triangles.
As might have been predicted from our review of the literature, no entirely cleanly delineated results were found. None of the 20 subjects, for example, remembered all of the blue items and nothing else.
Instead some subjects remembered more of some kinds of objects and fewer of others but some of each kind. There is a significant relationship amongst the hierarchy of attributes.
Color was the most important attribute: All of the subjects during both long and short tests remembered at least half of the objects that were the same color as the first color that they chose. This compares to only 24% in terms of location (remembering items that were clustered together), 21% for shape and 8% for texture.
The design of this experiment also allowed for testing whether differences in time duration produce a different perceptual hierarchy. It may be that if subjects are given only a very brief period of time that they "see" differently, categorizing the objects along a different hierarchical model than if they have several minutes to study the objects.
It was hypothesized initially that the shorter the period during which the students have a chance to study the objects the fewer attributes they will attend to. Thus we may find that in the shorter trials subjects remember fewer different types of objects.
In fact, what was found that during the shorter timed periods color and shape became more…