Cross-level Illusory Conjunction between Implied (Semantic) and Actual (Perceptual) Colors


Goldfarb and Treisman (2010) found observers made more perceptual binding errors (illusory conjunctions, ICs) when the features of an object were inconsistent. They suggested that such mistakes originate from features in the same level. We investigated whether we could induce ICs across perceptual and semantic domains by manipulating the font colour of object words containing implied colours. In Experiment 1, participants saw very brief displays of four Chinese characters (日(sun), 火(fire),山(hill), 水(water)) printed in either yellow, red, green, or blue. Observers had to report the physical color of a randomly selected target word in each trial. We observed significantly higher error rates when the words were printed in colours incongruent with their implied color. We replicated the result with a set of English words (lemon-yellow, water-blue, blood-red, and grass-green) in Experiment 2, which led us to conclude that illusory conjunctions can arise in the gulf between semantic and perceptual domains.

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