University of Sussex
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Ensemble perception of hue

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posted on 2023-06-09, 01:40 authored by John MauleJohn Maule
In order to rapidly get the gist of new scenes or recognise objects, the brain must have mechanisms to process the large amount of visual information which enters the eye. Previous research has shown that observers tend to extract the average feature from briefly seen sets of multiple stimuli that vary along a dimension (e.g., size), a phenomenon called ensemble perception. This thesis investigates ensemble perception of hue. Paper 1 (Maule, Witzel & Franklin, 2014) demonstrates that human observers have memories biased towards the mean hue of a rapidly-presented ensemble of colours. Paper 2 (Maule & Franklin, 2015) further shows that observers are able to identify the mean hue from a distractor fairly reliably, provided the range of hues is manageable. Paper 3 provides evidence that, while observers’ settings of the mean hue converge quite closely on the true mean across many trials, the precision of those settings is low and does not support claims that ensemble perception can surpass the limits of visual working memory. Paper 4 found that adults with autism have an enhanced ability to discriminate members from non-members of multi-hue ensembles, and a similar ability to extract the mean hue compared to typical adults, but are worse at averaging small sets. Finally, paper 5 investigated colour afterimages in adults with autism and whether they are affected by top-down gist of a scene. It was found that afterimages were no different in autism compared to a typical group. Overall these studies provide the first comprehensive exploration of ensemble perception of hue, showing that observers can extract and estimate the mean hue of a rapidly-presented multi-colour ensemble with a small hue variance. The ability to average hue may be driven by a sub-sampling mechanism, but results from autistic adults suggests that it can be modulated by processing style.


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