Poster C125, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Native language facilitates conscious visual perception
Martin Maier1,2, Rasha Abdel Rahman1,2; 1Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2Berlin School of Mind and Brain
The study of how language influences color perception has been one of the most striking examples of linguistic relativity. Language-specific color categories can influence basic perceptual processes such as visual discrimination. Yet, very little is known about the relationship between language and visual awareness: can language structures influence not only how, but also but if we perceive visual stimuli in the first place? Native-speakers of Greek, who place light and dark shades of blue into different verbal categories, detected more stimuli that contained this color contrast in an Attentional Blink paradigm compared to green tones that contained no linguistic contrast. Crucially, this behavioral advantage was predicted by early electrophysiological brain activity starting around 100 ms after stimulus onset. Language-specific electrophysiological activity resurged in a later time window (220–300 ms) that proved critical for the transition of targets into visual awareness. This pattern was not observed in German controls, who do not distinguish verbally between the “Greek” blues. We argue that linguistic color-categories enhanced the contrast between shades of blue selectively in Greek participants, providing blue targets with a head start in the competition for visual awareness. These results demonstrate that our native language is one of the forces that determine access of visual stimuli to awareness.
Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Vision