Tool use represents a fundamental facet of the human intrinsic ability to interact with the environment. In two experiments, presented at the Trieste Symposium on Perception and Cognition, we show how the action readiness prompted by the visuo-perceptual context may affect object recognition performance.
Tool use represents a fundamental facet of the human intrinsic ability to interact with the environment. A basic assumption of most recent theories in the field of human tool use is that people reason about the physical object properties to solve everyday life problems rather than passively learn the relationship between objects.
In a most recent study, Federico and Brandimonte (2019) introduced the concept of action reappraisal to refer to the cognitive processing of multiple sources of information (e.g., affordances, mechanical knowledge, functional knowledge, abstract knowledge, etc.) that can be used by an agent in order to reason about the possibility to act within and upon a context, in an agent's consistent-with-intentions way (Federico & Brandimonte, 2019; Osiurak & Badets, 2016, 2017, Osiurak, Rossetti & Badets, 2017).
Following this perspective, in the present research, we used a paired-object affordance paradigm to investigate the role of the visuo-perceptual context in affecting participants' visual exploration patterns and recognition performance. Specifically, we varied the thematic consistency of object-tool pairs in order to modulate the action readiness prompted by the visual scene. In Experiment 1, we analysed by eye-tracking the fixation patterns of participants looking at 3D coloured images depicting object-tool pairs that could be either thematically consistent (e.g., hammer-nail) or thematically inconsistent (e.g., hammer-scarf).
Gaze-behaviour analyses extended previous findings (Federico & Brandimonte, 2019) by showing that under higher action-readiness condition (i.e., in the thematically consistent condition), participants' visuo-attentional patterns focused on the manipulable part (e.g., the handle of a hammer) more than on the functional part (e.g., the head of a hammer) of the tools. Conversely, the functional area of the tools obtained more fixations under the thematically inconsistent condition. In Experiment 2, a short-term recognition task was used, in which participants were first presented with the same thematically consistent or inconsistent object-tool pairs as in Experiment 1 and then, after each pair presentation, asked to decide whether a subsequent single object (or a single tool) was present in the original, just seen, pair. Changes in action readiness due to the visuo-perceptual context affected recognition performance, with faster recognition of the tools under thematically consistent conditions.
These results add to the growing literature suggesting that higher-level, semantic information may be precociously activated to guide visual exploration and facilitate object recognition.
This poster has been discussed by the authors at the Trieste Symposium on Perception and Cognition (November 2019). You can download the poster in pdf format here.