Semantic Contamination of Visual Similarity Judgments


The roles of semantic and perceptual information in cognition are of widespread interest to many researchers. However, disentangling their contributions is complicated by their overlap in real-world categories. For instance, attempts to calibrate visual similarity based on participant judgments are undermined by the possibility that semantic knowledge contaminates these judgments. This study investigated whether inverting stimuli attenuates semantic contamination of visual similarity judgments in adults and children. Participants viewed upright and inverted triads of familiar animals, and judged which of two test items looked most like the target. One test item belonged to the same category as the target, and one belonged to a different category. Test items’ visual similarity to the target either corresponded or conflicted with category membership. Across age groups, conflicting category membership reduced accuracy and slowed reaction times to a greater extent in upright than inverted triads. Therefore, inversion attenuates semantic contamination of visual similarity judgments.

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