Ongoing Research

Object Ensemble Perception Abilities


Many everyday activities rely on summarizing a set of similar objects or a group of people. For example, in the grocery store we inference the freshness of a basket of blueberries by its average color or shape; at a party we sense the atmosphere by extracting the average facial expression or body movement of the crowd.

How do people vary in their ensemble perception abilities? Are there distinct abilities for objects from different categories? How are our abilities to recognize ensembles related to single object recognition abilities? Using individual differences approaches and multivariate methods, we have revealed evidence of a domain-general ability for extracting the average identity of a group of familiar objects such as cars, birds and planes.

For Examples:

Chang, T.-Y. & Gauthier, I. (in press). Domain-general ability underlies complex object ensemble processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Sunday, M. A., Tomarken, A., Cho, S.-J. & Gauthier, I. (in press). Novel and familiar object recognition rely on the same ability. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Music Reading Expertise


Music reading is a crucial aspect of music education, one that adds to the multisensory experience of music making. What are the effects that music reading experience has on our visual system? How does musical notation recognition differ from the recognition of faces or other objects?


In the Object Perception Lab, we have been developing batteries of behavioral tasks to assess music reading expertise with good psychometric properties. Using these tasks, we have shown how our visual behaviors are shaped by the visual knowledge of musical notes and how musical notation recognition is supported by domain-specific abilities following music trainings and domain-general abilities such as general intelligence.

For Examples:

Chang, T.-Y. & Gauthier, I. (2021). Domain-specific and domain-general contributions to reading musical notation. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-021-02349-3

Chang, T.-Y. & Gauthier, I. (2019). Distractor familiarity reveals the importance of configural information in musical notation. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 1-14.

Visual Arts and Visual Abilities


Visual arts communicate ideas, concepts, and feelings. Does visual art training enhance visual perception and cognition? In collaboration with Russell Davidson from the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY, I am working with Isabel Gauthier and Tom Palmeri on the relationship between experiences in visual art and individual differences in object recognition abilities.


Who Has Supported My Research?