The influence of categorisation on the perceived shape similarity of everyday objects
Gillebert CR., Op de Beeck HP., Wagemans J.
There is substantial evidence that object representations in adults are dynamically adapted by learning. Here we show that these effects are induced by active processing of objects in a particular task context, and not merely by visual exposure to objects during training. We derived behavioural sensitivity and neural selectivity for shape differences in a psychophysical and an event-related fMRI-adaptation study, respectively. We had two training conditions: “categorised objects” were categorised at a subordinate level based on fine shape differences, while “control objects” were seen equally often in a task context requiring no subordinate categorisation. After training, categorised objects were more easily discriminable than control objects and object-selective cortex was more selective for differences among categorised than control objects. These results indicate that the task context modulates the extent to which shape similarity is altered as a result of training, both at the behavioural and at the neural level.