Visual appearance interacts with conceptual knowledge in object recognition

Olivia S. Cheung, Isabel Gauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objects contain rich visual and conceptual information, but do these two types of information interact? Here, we examine whether visual and conceptual information interact when observers see novel objects for the first time. We then address how this interaction influences the acquisition of perceptual expertise. We used two types of novel objects (Greebles), designed to resemble either animals or tools, and two lists of words, which described non-visual attributes of people or man-made objects. Participants first judged if a word was more suitable for describing people or objects while ignoring a task-irrelevant image, and showed faster responses if the words and the unfamiliar objects were congruent in terms of animacy (e.g., animal-like objects with words that described human). Participants then learned to associate objects and words that were either congruent or not in animacy, before receiving expertise training to rapidly individuate the objects. Congruent pairing of visual and conceptual information facilitated observers’ ability to become a perceptual expert, as revealed in a matching task that required visual identification at the basic or subordinate levels. Taken together, these findings show that visual and conceptual information interact at multiple levels in object recognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number793
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Object learning
  • Perceptual expertise
  • Semantics
  • Visual features

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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