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The authors studied the influence of canonical orientation on visual search for object orientation. Displays consisted of pictures of animals whose axis of elongation was either vertical or tilted in their canonical orientation. Target orientation could be either congruent or incongruent with the object's canonical orientation. In Experiment 1, vertical canonical targets were detected faster when they were tilted (incongruent) than when they were vertical (congruent). This search asymmetry was reversed for tilted canonical targets. The effect of canonical orientation was partially preserved when objects were high-pass filtered, but it was eliminated when they were low-pass filtered, rendering them as unfamiliar shapes (Experiment 2). The effect of canonical orientation was also eliminated by inverting the objects (Experiment 3) and in a patient with visual agnosia (Experiment 4). These results indicate that orientation search with familiar objects can be modulated by canonical orientation, and they indicate a top-down influence on orientation processing.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform

Publication Date





20 - 39


Form Perception, Humans, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Reaction Time, Visual Perception