Gist in time: Scene semantics and structure enhance recall of searched objects.
Josephs EL., Draschkow D., Wolfe JM., Võ ML-H.
Previous work has shown that recall of objects that are incidentally encountered as targets in visual search is better than recall of objects that have been intentionally memorized (Draschkow, Wolfe, & Võ, 2014). However, this counter-intuitive result is not seen when these tasks are performed with non-scene stimuli. The goal of the current paper is to determine what features of search in a scene contribute to higher recall rates when compared to a memorization task. In each of four experiments, we compare the free recall rate for target objects following a search to the rate following a memorization task. Across the experiments, the stimuli include progressively more scene-related information. Experiment 1 provides the spatial relations between objects. Experiment 2 adds relative size and depth of objects. Experiments 3 and 4 include scene layout and semantic information. We find that search leads to better recall than explicit memorization in cases where scene layout and semantic information are present, as long as the participant has ample time (2500ms) to integrate this information with knowledge about the target object (Exp. 4). These results suggest that the integration of scene and target information not only leads to more efficient search, but can also contribute to stronger memory representations than intentional memorization.