Beyond Scene Gist: Objects Guide Search More Than Scene Background

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Abstract

Although the facilitation of visual search by contextual information is well established, there is little understanding of the independent contributions of different types of contextual cues in scenes. Here we manipulated 3 types of contextual information: object co-occurrence, multiple object configurations, and background category. We isolated the benefits of each contextual cue to target detectability, its impact on decision bias, confidence, and the guidance of eye movements. We find that object-based information guides eye movements and facilitates perceptual judgments more than scene background. The degree of guidance and facilitation of each contextual cue can be related to its inherent informativeness about the target spatial location as measured by human explicit judgments about likely target locations. Our results improve the understanding of the contributions of distinct contextual scene components to search and suggest that the brain’s utilization of cues to guide eye movements is linked to the cue’s informativeness about the target’s location.

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