Moving beyond the visual in vision: Lessons from expertise and task effects
Dr. Assaf Harel
Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, NIMH
Visual recognition is never performed in isolation. When we encounter objects in the world we process not only their visual attributes, but we also engage in a host of high-level cognitive functions enabling us to understand the object we see. For example, we access our conceptual knowledge of the object or engage certain expectations about the sensorimotor affordances provided by the object. However, current models of vision often emphasize the central role of stimulus-driven processing, and less is known about the impact of top-down factors on complex visual representations. In my talk, I will describe a series of studies I conducted which highlight the central role that that higher-level cognitive factors, such as experience, attention, and behavioral goals play in determining the nature of visual processing. Focusing primarily on expertise in object recognition and the effects of task, I will argue that a comprehensive understanding of real-world visual object recognition cannot be dissociated from the study of these “high-level”, “non-visual” factors, and in fact, that they are an inherent part of the process of visual recognition.