January 22, 2011

Mother Earth 1-Humans 0: Erik Andrade Tongol


Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of images. Be it walking in a crowded city street or in a deserted forest trail. Our brains are amazing because we only use general descriptions of the type scene or gists to identify scenes. In a fraction of a second we can rapidly perceive the gist of a scene. Our brain would get tired easily if we have to process all the details in the scenes that we encounter everyday plus it would take forever to do this. This was our topic in Psychology 135 Sensation and Perception yesterday. I tested this while I was watching television earlier. As I was flipping channels, I could easily obtain the gist of the show in a mere fraction of a second. This made it easier for me to pick a show that I was interested in. I was somewhat impressed by my ability to obtain the gist of the show rapidly. This was the reason why I chose a journal article about perceiving scenes and their gists.
I came across an interesting journal article called “How long to get to the gist of real-world natural scenes?” by Fabre-Thorpe, Joubert, & Rousselet (2005). Their study examined the processing time of a natural scene in a fast categorization task of its gist. A total of forty-eight adult volunteers for both experiment 1 and 2 were tested for this. In the first experiment, the participants categorized colored pictures of real-world scenes belonging to two natural categories: sea and mountain, and 2 artificial categories: indoor and urban. Experiment 2 is basically the same as the first one but both colored and black and white scenes were used to examine the role of color on performance. 384 images for each of the four environmental categories were used and they were flashed to the participant 26ms each. Results were consistent with both experiments showing that natural environments could be classified faster than artificial environments. Also, experiment 2 showed that color information does not appear to be the most crucial feature used to categorize real world scenes, This study further strengthened earlier studies that the gist of real-world scenes could be acquired with high accuracy and rapidly.
The article was very informative. I applaude the researchers because I would have never imagined that there was a difference in perceiving natural and artificial scenes. The idea was very simple but very relevant and creative. 
It is fascinating to know that there is a difference in getting the gist of natural scenes as compared to artificial or manmade scenes. That is, we create gists of natural scenes significantly faster than artificial scenes. This information may be very useful to me because I like going out. I like traveling and going to new places. I especially love to jog in places where nature surrounds me. Seeing new sights is a hobby of mine. Now I know that I react better and faster to natural scenes rather than manmade scenes. You may never know that the few millisecond difference in perceiving the gist of those scenes can spell life or death for me in an emergency situation.
Yet again, the brilliance of mother earth triumphs over manmade objects.

Rousselet, G., Joubert, O., & Fabre-Thorpe, M. (2005). How long to get to the 'gist' of real-world natural scenes?. Visual Cognition12(6), 852-877.

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