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In Behavior research methods

Precisely characterizing mental representations of visual experiences requires careful control of experimental stimuli. Recent work leveraging such stimulus control has led to important insights; however, these findings are constrained to simple visual properties like color and line orientation. There remains a critical methodological barrier to characterizing perceptual and mnemonic representations of realistic visual experiences. Here, we introduce a novel method to systematically control visual properties of natural scene stimuli. Using generative adversarial networks (GANs), a state-of-the-art deep learning technique for creating highly realistic synthetic images, we generated scene wheels in which continuously changing visual properties smoothly transition between meaningful realistic scenes. To validate the efficacy of scene wheels, we conducted two behavioral experiments that assess perceptual and mnemonic representations attained from the scene wheels. In the perceptual validation experiment, we tested whether the continuous transition of scene images along the wheel is reflected in human perceptual similarity judgment. The perceived similarity of the scene images correspondingly decreased as distances between the images increase on the wheel. In the memory experiment, participants reconstructed to-be-remembered scenes from the scene wheels. Reconstruction errors for these scenes resemble error distributions observed in prior studies using simple stimulus properties. Importantly, perceptual similarity judgment and memory precision varied systematically with scene wheel radius. These findings suggest our novel approach offers a window into the mental representations of naturalistic visual experiences.

Son Gaeun, Walther Dirk B, Mack Michael L


Continuous report paradigm, Generative adversarial networks, Scene perception, Visual working memory