Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Making the invisible visible: Verbal cues enhance visual detection

Date:
July 12, 2010
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
Cognitive psychologists have shown that an image displayed too quickly to be seen by an observer can be detected if the participant first hears the name of the object.

Cognitive psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania and University of California have shown that an image displayed too quickly to be seen by an observer can be detected if the participant first hears the name of the object.

Through a series of experiments published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that hearing the name of an object improved participants' ability to see it, even when the object was flashed onscreen in conditions and speeds (50 milliseconds) that would render it invisible. Surprisingly, the effect seemed to be specific to language. A visual preview did not make the invisible target visible. Getting a good look at the object before the experiment did nothing to help participants see it flashed.

The study demonstrated that language can change what we see and can also enhance perceptual sensitivity. Verbal cues can influence even the most elementary visual processing and inform our understanding of how language affects perception.

Researchers led by psychologist Gary Lupyan, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Penn, had participants complete an object detection task in which they made an object-presence or -absence decision to briefly presented capital letters.

Other experiments within the study further defined the relationship between auditory cues and identification of visual images. For example, researchers reasoned that if auditory cues help with object detection by encouraging participants to mentally picture the image, then the cuing effect might disappear when the target moved on screen. The study found that verbal cues still clued participants in. No matter what position on screen the target showed up the effect of the auditory cue was not diminished, an advantage over visual cues.

Researchers also found that the magnitude of the cuing effect correlated with each participant's own estimation of the vividness of their mental imagery. Using a common questionnaire, researchers found that those who consider their mental imagery particularly vivid scored higher when provided an auditory cue.

The team went on to determine that the auditory cue improved detection only when the cue was correct -- that is the target image and the verbal cue had to match. According to researchers, hearing the image labeled evokes an image of the object, strengthening its visual representation and thus making it visible.

"This research speaks to the idea that perception is shaped moment-by-moment by language," said Lupyan. "Although only English speakers were tested, the results suggest that because words in different languages pick out different things in the environment, learning different languages can shape perception in subtle, but pervasive ways."

The single study is part of a greater effort by Lupyan and other Penn psychologists to understand how high-level cognitive expectation can influence low-level sensory processing, in this case verbal cues. For years, cognitive psychologists have known that directing participant's attention to a general location improves reaction times to target objects appearing in that location. More recently, experimental evidence has shown that semantic information can influence what one sees in surprising ways. For instance, hearing words that associate with directions of motion, such as a falling "bomb," can interfere with an observer's ability to quickly recognize the next movement they see. Moreover, hearing a word that labels a target improves the speed and efficiency of the search. For instance, when searching for the number 2 among 5's, participants are faster to find the target when they actually hear "find the two" immediately prior to the search -- even when 2 has been the target all along.

The study was conducted by Lupyan of Penn's Department of Psychology and Michael Spivey of the University of California, Merced.

Research was conducted with funding from the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lupyan et al. Making the Invisible Visible: Verbal but Not Visual Cues Enhance Visual Detection. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (7): e11452 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011452

Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania. "Making the invisible visible: Verbal cues enhance visual detection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712121855.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania. (2010, July 12). Making the invisible visible: Verbal cues enhance visual detection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712121855.htm
University of Pennsylvania. "Making the invisible visible: Verbal cues enhance visual detection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712121855.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins