What: A general-purpose mechanism of visual feature association in visual word identification and beyond
Where: Zoom Room 2
Who: Yamil Vidal (PhD., Postdoctoral Researcher, Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati - SISSA, Trieste, Italy.
As writing systems are a relatively novel invention (slightly over 5 kya), they could not have influenced the evolution of our species. Instead, reading might recycle evolutionary older mechanisms that originally supported other tasks and preceded the emergence of written language. So far, most if not all evidence supporting this claim has come from animal research. In the work I will present, we instead test this hypothesis in humans. We consider that if the reading system relies on domain-general visual mechanisms, some effects studied in the field of “orthographic processing” should also be observable with non-orthographic visual stimuli.
We performed three experiments using exactly the same design but with visual stimuli that progressively departed from orthographic material. Participants showed a robust sensitivity to the co-occurrence of features (‘‘bigram’’ coding) with strings of letter-like symbols but also with made-up 3D objects and sinusoidal gratings. This suggests that the processing mechanisms involved in the visual recognition of novel words also support the recognition of other novel visual objects. These mechanisms would allow the visual system to capture statistical regularities in the visual environment.