The perceptual categorization of multidimensional stimuli is hierarchically organized
Chi Chen and Livia de Hoz
As we interact with our surroundings, we encounter the same or similar objects from different perspectives and are compelled to generalize. For example, despite their variety we recognize dog barks as a distinct sound class. While we have some understanding of generalization along a single stimulus dimension (frequency, color), natural stimuli are identifiable by a combination of dimensions. Measuring their interaction is essential to understand perception. Using a 2-dimension discrimination task for mice and frequency or amplitude modulated sounds, we tested untrained generalization across pairs of auditory dimensions in an automatized behavioral paradigm. We uncovered a perceptual hierarchy over the tested dimensions that was dominated by the sound’s spectral composition. Stimuli are thus not perceived as a whole, but as a combination of their features, each of which weights differently on the identification of the stimulus according to an established hierarchy, possibly paralleling their differential shaping of neuronal tuning.
iScience. 26,106941 (2023)