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The role of familiarity on change perception

Karacan, Hacer
In this study the mechanisms that control attention in natural scenes was examined. It was explored whether familiarity with the environment makes participants more sensitive to changes or novel events in the scene. Previous investigation of this issue has been based on viewing 2D pictures/images of simple objects or of natural scenes, a situation which does not accurately reflect the challenges of natural vision. In order to examine this issue, as well as the differences between 2D and 3D environments, two experiments were designed in which the general task demands could be manipulated. The results revealed that familiarity with the environment significantly increased the time spent fixating regions in the scene where a change had occurred. The results support the hypothesis that we learn the structure of natural scenes over time, and that attention is attracted by deviations from the stored scene representation. Such a mechanism would allow attention to objects or events that were not explicitly on the current cognitive agenda.