Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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The effect of task and saliency on latencies for colour and motion processing

In human visual perception, there is evidence that different visual attributes, such as colour, form and motion, have different neural-processing latencies. Specifically, recent studies have suggested that colour changes are processed faster than motion changes. We propose that the processing latencies should not be considered as fixed quantities for different attributes, but instead depend upon attribute salience and the observer's task. We asked observers to respond to high- and low-salience colour and motion changes in three different tasks. The tasks varied from having a strong motor component to having a strong perceptual component. Increasing salience led to shorter processing times in all three tasks. We also found an interaction between task and attribute: motion was processed more quickly in reaction-time tasks, whereas colour was processed more quickly in more perceptual tasks. Our results caution against making direct comparisons between latencies for processing different visual attributes without equating salience or considering task effects. More-salient attributes are processed faster than less-salient ones, and attributes that are critical for the task are also processed more quickly.



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