Effects of Labels on Visual Perceptions
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Labels simplify our world by reducing complex ideas into simple phrases. Research suggests that labels even alter our visual perception to the point that we think images carrying common labels look similar to each other even when they are not. The present study shows that this is valid for perception of human faces and reveals that labels carrying specific categories of meaning are particularly more powerful in changing our perception. In two experiments, participants were presented with a triad of morphed human faces paired with arbitrary labels. The meanings of these labels were manipulated to represent the belief, the food, the disease, or the “face’s” last name. The results indicated that labels carrying conceptual information such as beliefs, food, and diseases were particularly strong in modifying participants’ judgment of similarity of individual faces, whereas labels characterized with last names of faces were least powerful. These results suggest that how we visually analyze an object is not confined to sensory modalities such as sight, hearing, or smell, but also to semantic information we relate to iv it. In other words, we shape what we see in terms of what we know about what we are seeing.
Lara, Frankie (2009). Effects of Labels on Visual Perceptions. Available electronically from