Visual-shape competition during language-mediated attention is based on lexical input and not modulated by contextual appropriateness
Huettig, F., & Altmann, G. T. M.
Visual-shape competition during language-mediated attention is based on lexical input and not modulated by contextual appropriateness. Visual Cognition, 15
(8), 985-1018. doi:10.1080/13506280601130875.
Visual attention can be directed immediately, as a spoken word unfolds, towards conceptually related but nonassociated objects, even if they mismatch on other dimensions that would normally determine which objects in the scene were appropriate referents for the unfolding word (Huettig & Altmann, 2005). Here we demonstrate that the mapping between language and concurrent visual objects can also be mediated by visual-shape relations. On hearing "snake", participants directed overt attention immediately, within a visual display depicting four objects, to a picture of an electric cable, although participants had viewed the visual display with four objects for approximately 5 s before hearing the target word - sufficient time to recognize the objects for what they were. The time spent fixating the cable correlated significantly with ratings of the visual similarity between snakes in general and this particular cable. Importantly, with sentences contextually biased towards the concept snake, participants looked at the snake well before the onset of "snake", but they did not look at the visually similar cable until hearing "snake". Finally, we demonstrate that such activation can, under certain circumstances (e.g., during the processing of dominant meanings of homonyms), constrain the direction of visual attention even when it is clearly contextually inappropriate. We conclude that language-mediated attention can be guided by a visual match between spoken words and visual objects, but that such a match is based on lexical input and may not be modulated by contextual appropriateness.