ERP correlates of spatially incongruent object identification during scene viewing: Contextual expectancy versus simultaneous processing

Suekrue Baris Demiral, George L. Malcolm, John M. Henderson

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Object processing is affected by the gist of the scene within which it is embedded. Previous ERP research has suggested that manipulating the semantic congruency between an object and the surrounding scene affects the high level (semantic) representation of that object emerging after the presentation of the scene (Ganis & Kutas, 2003). In two ERP experiments, we investigated whether there would be a similar electrophysiological response when spatial congruency of an object in a scene was manipulated while the semantic congruency remained the same. Apart from the location of the object, all other object features were congruent with the scene (e.g., in a bedroom scene, either a painting or a cat appeared on the wall). In the first experiment, participants were shown a location cue and then a scene image for 300 ms, after which an object image appeared on the cued location for 300 ms. Spatially incongruent objects elicited a stronger centro-frontal N300-N400 effect in the 275-500 ms window relative to the spatially congruent objects. We also found early ERP effects, dominant on the left hemisphere electrodes. Strikingly, LORETA analysis revealed that these activations were mainly located in the superior and middle temporal gyrus of the right hemisphere. In the second experiment, we used a paradigm similar to Mudrik, Lamy, and Deouell (2010). The scene and the object were presented together for 300 ms after the location cue. This time, we did not observe either an early or the pronounced N300-N400 effect. In contrast to Experiment 1, LORETA analysis on the N400 time-window revealed that the generators of these weak ERP effects were mainly located in the temporal lobe of the left hemisphere. Our results suggest that, when the scene is presented before the object, top-down spatial encoding processes are initiated and the right superior temporal gyrus is activated, as previously suggested (Ellison, Schindler, Pattison, & Milner, 2004). Mismatch between the actual object features and the spatially driven top-down structural and functional features could lead to the early effect, and then to the N300-N400 effect. In contrast, when the scene is not presented before the object, the spatial encoding could not happen early and strong enough to initiate spatial object-integration effects. Our results indicate that spatial information is an early and essential part in scene-object integration, and it primes structural as well as semantic features of an object. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1271-1285
Number of pages15
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Scene-object identification
  • Spatial congruency
  • N300
  • N400

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