Unconscious Familiarity-based Color-Form Binding: Evidence from Visual Extinction.
Rappaport SJ., Riddoch MJ., Chechlacz M., Humphreys GW.
There is good evidence that early visual processing involves the coding of different features in independent brain regions. A major question, then, is how we see the world in an integrated manner, in which the different features are "bound" together. A standard account of this has been that feature binding depends on attention to the stimulus, which enables only the relevant features to be linked together [Treisman, A., & Gelade, G. A feature-integration theory of attention. Cognitive Psychology, 12, 97-136, 1980]. Here we test this influential idea by examining whether, in patients showing visual extinction, the processing of otherwise unconscious (extinguished) stimuli is modulated by presenting objects in their correct (familiar) color. Correctly colored objects showed reduced extinction when they had a learned color, and this color matched across the ipsi- and contralesional items (red strawberry + red tomato). In contrast, there was no reduction in extinction under the same conditions when the stimuli were colored incorrectly (blue strawberry + blue tomato; Experiment 1). The result was not due to the speeded identification of a correctly colored ipsilesional item, as there was no benefit from having correctly colored objects in different colors (red strawberry + yellow lemon; Experiment 2). There was also no benefit to extinction from presenting the correct colors in the background of each item (Experiment 3). The data suggest that learned color-form binding can reduce extinction even when color is irrelevant for the task. The result is consistent with preattentive binding of color and shape for familiar stimuli.