UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Interaction of prior category knowledge and novel statistical patterns during visual search for real-world objects Moon, Austin; Zhao, Jiaying; Peters, Megan A. K.; Wu, Rachel


Two aspects of real-world visual search are typically studied in parallel: category knowledge (e.g., searching for food) and visual patterns (e.g., predicting an upcoming street sign from prior street signs). Previous visual search studies have shown that prior category knowledge hinders search when targets and distractors are from the same category. Other studies have shown that task-irrelevant patterns of non-target objects can enhance search when targets appear in locations that previously contained these irrelevant patterns. Combining EEG (N2pc ERP component, a neural marker of target selection) and behavioral measures, the present study investigated how search efficiency is simultaneously affected by prior knowledge of real-world objects (food and toys) and irrelevant visual patterns (sequences of runic symbols) within the same paradigm. We did not observe behavioral differences between locating items in patterned versus random locations. However, the N2pc components emerged sooner when search items appeared in the patterned location, compared to the random location, with a stronger effect when search items were targets, as opposed to non-targets categorically related to the target. A multivariate pattern analysis revealed that neural responses during search trials in the same time window reflected where the visual patterns appeared. Our finding contributes to our understanding of how knowledge acquired prior to the search task (e.g., category knowledge) interacts with new content within the search task.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)