2001 volume 30(6) pages 655 – 668

Cite as:
VanRullen R, Thorpe S J, 2001, "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Ultra-rapid visual categorisation of natural and artifactual objects" Perception 30(6) 655 – 668

Download citation data in RIS format

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Ultra-rapid visual categorisation of natural and artifactual objects

Rufin VanRullen, Simon J Thorpe

Received 5 January 2000, in revised form 20 December 2000

Abstract. Visual processing is known to be very fast in ultra-rapid categorisation tasks where the subject has to decide whether a briefly flashed image belongs to a target category or not. Human subjects can respond in under 400 ms, and event-related-potential studies have shown that the underlying processing can be done in less than 150 ms. Monkeys trained to perform the same task have proved even faster. However, most of these experiments have only been done with biologically relevant target categories such as animals or food. Here we performed the same study on human subjects, alternating between a task in which the target category was 'animal', and a task in which the target category was 'means of transport'. These natural images of clearly artificial objects contained targets as varied as cars, trucks, trains, boats, aircraft, and hot-air balloons. However, the subjects performed almost identically in both tasks, with reaction times not significantly longer in the 'means of transport' task. These reaction times were much shorter than in any previous study on natural-image processing. We conclude that, at least for these two superordinate categories, the speed of ultra-rapid visual categorisation of natural scenes does not depend on the target category, and that this processing could rely primarily on feed-forward, automatic mechanisms.

Restricted material:

PDF Full-text PDF size: 266 Kb

HTML References  27 references, 18 with DOI links (Crossref)

Your computer (IP address: has not been recognised as being on a network authorised to view the full text or references of this article. This content is part of our deep back archive. If you are a member of a university library that has a subscription to the journal, please contact your serials librarian (subscriptions information).