Influence of scene-based properties on visual search

Science 247:721-723 (1990)
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The task of visual search is to determine as rapidly as possible whether a target item is present or absent in a display. Rapidly detected items are thought to contain features that correspond to primitive elements in the human visual system. In previous theories, it has been assumed that visual search is based on simple two-dimensional features in the image. However, visual search also has access to another level of representation, one that describes properties in the corresponding three-dimensional scene. Among these properties are three dimensionality and the direction of lighting, but not viewing direction. These findings imply that the parallel processes of early vision are much more sophisticated than previously assumed.

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Ronald A. Rensink
University of British Columbia


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