Priming of Scenic Layout Measured with an Accuracy Task

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Brief exposure to a known scene activates a representation of its layout that is functional — in a priming paradigm, brief exposure to a scene prime speeds subsequent processing of spatial relations across the scene (Sanocki & Epstein, 1997, Psychological Science; Sanocki, 2003, Cognitive Psychology). However, previous results were obtained with reaction time measures of the speed of spatial processing. Accuracy measures sometimes produce results opposing reaction time. Would analogous priming results be obtained when the target scenes are briefly presented and accuracy is measured?

Full color pictures of scenes (different arrangements of blocks) were used as primes and targets. Targets were identical to primes except for two red probe ovals superimposed on scene surfaces. On each trial, a scene prime or the control prime (the background, sans objects) was presented for 300 ms, followed by a 50 ms mask. Then the target appeared, for a duration ranging from 50 to 117 ms. Observers indicated which probe (left or right) was closer to viewpoint. Percentage correct increased with target duration, as would be expected. When scene primes preceded the targets, accuracy was higher throughout processing time relative to the control prime. This advantage is consistent with previous reaction time results.

The scene stimuli varied from simple (1 simple object, 3 surfaces total) to complex (4 multipart, obliquely oriented objects, 24 surfaces). Complex scene targets were processed more slowly than simple scenes, although priming effects were similar across scene complexity. As in reaction time experiments, scene complexity increased processing time for targets but the scene priming process was independent of complexity. The results are consistent with a fairly automatic, broad scope scene priming process that prepares a spatial representation, followed by target processing that increases with scenic detail.

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Journal of Vision, v. 5, issue 8, art. 65