January 21, 2021

Scene context impairs perception of semantically congruent objects

Visual scene context is well-known to facilitate the recognition of scene-congruent objects. Interestingly, however, according to the influential theory of predictive coding, scene congruency should lead to reduced (rather than enhanced) processing of congruent objects, compared to incongruent ones, since congruent objects elicit reduced prediction error responses. We tested this counterintuitive hypothesis in two online behavioural experiments with human participants (N = 300). We found clear evidence for impaired perception of congruent objects, both in a change detection task measuring response times as well as in a bias-free object discrimination task measuring accuracy. Congruency costs were related to independent subjective congruency ratings. Finally, we show that the reported effects cannot be explained by low-level stimulus confounds, response biases, or top-down strategy. These results provide convincing evidence for perceptual congruency costs during scene viewing, in line with predictive coding theory.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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