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Regular version of the site

Article

Ensemble summary statistics as a basis for rapid visual categorization

Journal of Vision. 2015. Vol. 15. No. 8. P. 1-14.

Ensemble summary statistics represent multiple objects on the high level of abstraction—that is, without representing individual features and ignoring spatial organization. This makes them especially useful for the rapid visual categorization of multiple objects of different types that are intermixed in space. Rapid categorization implies our ability to judge at one brief glance whether all visible objects represent different types or just variants of one type. A framework presented here states that processes resembling statistical tests can underlie that categorization. At an early stage (primary categorization), when independent ensemble properties are distributed along a single sensory dimension, the shape of that distribution is tested in order to establish whether all features can be represented by a single or multiple peaks. When primary categories are separated, the visual system either reiterates the shape test to recognize subcategories (indepth processing) or implements mean comparison tests to match several primary categories along a new dimension. Rapid categorization is not free from processing limitations; the role of selective attention in categorization is discussed in light of these limitations.