Alan Wong


Areas of specialism

Perceptual training & expertise; Object perception; Absolute pitch; Multitasking; Visual processes in word reading


Research interests


Ming Lui, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong, J. Peter Rosenfeld (2018)Suppression of 12-Hz SSVEPs when viewing familiar faces: An electrophysiological index to detect recognition, In: International Journal of Psychophysiology133pp. 159-168 Elsevier

Criminal investigation often involves finding out what a suspect knows about people, such as victims and confederates, who are involved in the crime. This study explored the possibility of determining a person's recognition of other individuals by analyzing the steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEP) triggered by visual oscillations of familiar and unfamiliar faces. In our study, 23 adult (10 men) participants gave subjective familiarity ratings (in a 7-point Likert scale) of >300 celebrities' and strangers' faces. For each participant, ten familiar and ten unfamiliar faces were selected based on his/her ratings. The selected faces were presented at 6 Hz while the participants performed a color change detection task orthogonal to the attributes of faces. The task was designed to maintain participants' visual attention towards the faces throughout the stimulus oscillations. Any difference between conditions would indicate modulation of visual attention by face familiarity. Results showed that the 12-Hz event-related spectral perturbations (ERSPs in decibel) at parietal-occipital electrodes were significantly lower when viewing familiar faces compared to unfamiliar faces. In individual level analysis, 18 out of 23 (78%) participants had significantly lower 12-Hz ERSPs at left parietal-occipital ROI in familiar face than unfamiliar face trials. This is the first study to demonstrate that SSVEPs triggered by stimulus oscillations can reveal people's recognition of faces with only 20 trials per condition and 10-s for each trial.

Alan C.-N. Wong, Yetta Kwailing Wong, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Terri Y. K. Ng, Vince S. H. Ngan (2019)Sensitivity to Configural Information and Expertise in Visual Word Recognition, In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance45(1)pp. 82-99 American Psychological Association

Holistic processing has been regarded as a marker of perceptual expertise for many object categories. However, visual word processing, a common form of perceptual expertise in the population, is traditionally considered part-based instead of holistic, and whether it involves holistic processing remains inconclusive. In 4 experiments, we examined a well-known yet less studied indicator of holistic word processing—observers’ sensitivity to changes in configural information of objects. A paradigm was designed with 2 crucial elements: specific requirement to process configural information within a word and an inversion manipulation. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that experienced observers were more sensitive to configural changes when words were presented in the familiar upright than unfamiliar inverted orientation. Of importance, such an inversion effect was correlated with one’s fluency in word recognition in 1 of the conditions (nonnative Chinese readers viewing Chinese characters) where there was a larger variability in word recognition fluency. Experiments 3 and 4 compared sensitivity to configural and component changes in word processing, showing that expert readers were more sensitive to configural changes than component changes (defined as line thickness of parts) in words. The current findings suggest that, similar to face recognition and other domains of perceptual expertise, word recognition involves holistic processing. Instead of being a hallmark of face recognition, holistic processing is a general expertise marker shared by different domains of perceptual expertise.

Jennifer J Richler, Andrew J Tomarken, Mackenzie A Sunday, Timothy J Vickery, Kaitlin F Ryan, R Jackie Floyd, David Sheinberg, Alan C.-N. Wong, Isabel Gauthier (2019)Individual differences in object recognition, In: Psychological Review126(2)pp. 226-251 American Psychological Association

There is substantial evidence for individual differences in personality and cognitive abilities, but we lack clear intuitions about individual differences in visual abilities. Previous work on this topic has typically compared performance with only 2 categories, each measured with only 1 task. This approach is insufficient for demonstration of domain-general effects. Most previous work has used familiar object categories, for which experience may vary between participants and categories, thereby reducing correlations that would stem from a common factor. In Study 1, we adopted a latent variable approach to test for the first time whether there is a domain-general object recognition ability, o. We assessed whether shared variance between latent factors representing performance for each of 5 novel object categories could be accounted for by a single higher-order factor. On average, 89% of the variance of lower-order factors denoting performance on novel object categories could be accounted for by a higher-order factor, providing strong evidence for o. Moreover, o also accounted for a moderate proportion of variance in tests of familiar object recognition. In Study 2, we assessed whether the strong association across categories in object recognition is due to third-variable influences. We find that o has weak to moderate associations with a host of cognitive, perceptual, and personality constructs and that a clear majority of the variance in and covariance between performance on different categories is independent of fluid intelligence. This work provides the first demonstration of a reliable, specific, and domain-general object recognition ability, and suggest a rich framework for future work in this area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Paulo Ventura, Joao Delgado, Miguel F Ferreira, António Farinha-Fernandes, Jose C. Guerreiro, Bruno Faustino, Isabel Leite, Alan C.-N. Wong (2019)Hemispheric asymmetry in holistic processing of words, In: Laterality (Hove)24(1)pp. 98-112 Taylor & Francis

Holistic processing has been regarded as a hallmark of face perception, indicating the automatic and obligatory tendency of the visual system to process all face parts as a perceptual unit rather than in isolation. Studies involving lateralized stimulus presentation suggest that the right hemisphere dominates holistic face processing. Holistic processing can also be shown with other categories such as words and thus it is not specific to faces or face-like expertize. Here, we used divided visual field presentation to investigate the possibly different contributions of the two hemispheres for holistic word processing. Observers performed same/different judgment on the cued parts of two sequentially presented words in the complete composite paradigm. Our data indicate a right hemisphere specialization for holistic word processing. Thus, these markers of expert object recognition are domain general.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Alan C.-N. Wong (2018)The role of line junctions in object recognition: The case of reading musical notation, In: Psychonomic bulletin & review25(4)pp. 1373-1380 Springer Nature

Previous work has shown that line junctions are informative features for visual perception of objects, letters, and words. However, the sources of such sensitivity and their generalizability to other object categories are largely unclear. We addressed these questions by studying perceptual expertise in reading musical notation, a domain in which individuals with different levels of expertise are readily available. We observed that removing line junctions created by the contact between musical notes and staff lines selectively impaired recognition performance in experts and intermediate readers, but not in novices. The degree of performance impairment was predicted by individual fluency in reading musical notation. Our findings suggest that line junctions provide diagnostic information about object identity across various categories, including musical notation. However, human sensitivity to line junctions does not readily transfer from familiar to unfamiliar object categories, and has to be acquired through perceptual experience with the specific objects.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, W Wong, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong (2018)Revisiting facial resemblance in couples, In: PloS one13(1)pp. e0191456-e0191456 Public Library Science

It is widely believed that couples look alike. Consistently, previous research reported higher facial similarity for couples than non-couples, and that facial similarity predicts marital satisfaction. However, it is unclear if facial similarity in couples shown in previous studies was solely driven by extrinsic features like hairstyle, glasses, etc. Also unclear is what attributes are perceived as similar from the faces of a couple. In three experiments, we showed that faces were considered more similar in couples than non-couples even without extrinsic features. Personality and age perceived from faces were also more similar in couples. Importantly, by matching pairs of faces according to their perceived personality, we found that a higher similarity in the perceived personality of a face pair led to higher facial similarity and couple likelihood ratings. These findings suggest that, instead of a result of pure physical analyses, facial similarity in couples is partly based on active social cognitive judgments on perceived personality, which may reveal the actual personality of the couples and thus inform relationship quality.

Kelvin F. H. Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong (2020)Multiple processing limitations underlie multitasking costs, In: Psychological research84(7)pp. 1946-1964

Human multitasking is typically defined as the practice of performing more than one task at the same time (dual task) or rapidly alternating between multiple tasks (task switching). The majority of research in multitasking has been focusing on individual paradigms, with surprisingly little effort in understanding their relationships. We adopted an individual-difference approach to reveal the limitations underlying multitasking costs measured in different paradigms. Exploratory factor analyses revealed not a general multitasking factor but instead three different processing limitations associated with response selection, retrieval and maintenance of task information, and task-set reconfiguration. The three factors were only weakly correlated with and thus not reducible to common measures of processing speed, working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. Males and females excelled in different aspects of multitasking, demonstrating the benefit of using a multifaceted view of multitasking competency in group comparison. Findings of the current study help resolve conflicting results between studies using different paradigms, and form the basis of more comprehensive measurement tools and training protocols covering different aspects of multitasking limitations. The study will also help future integration of multitasking abilities into the theoretical framework of executive function.

Alan C.-N. Wong, Terri Y. K. Ng, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Ken H. M. Yip, Yetta Kwailing Wong (2019)Visual training with musical notes changes late but not early electrophysiological responses in the visual cortex, In: Journal of vision (Charlottesville, Va.)19(7)pp. 1-16 Assoc Research Vision Ophthalmology Inc

Visual expertise with musical notation is unique. Fluent music readers show selectively higher activity to musical notes than to other visually similar patterns in both the retinotopic and higher-level visual areas and both very early (e.g., C1) and later (e.g., N170) visual event-related potential (ERP) components. This is different from domains such as face and letter perception, of which the neural expertise marker is typically found in the higher-level ventral visual areas and later (e.g., N170) ERP components. An intriguing question concerns whether the visual skills and neural selectivity observed in music-reading experts are a result of the effects of extensive visual experience with musical notation. The current study aimed to investigate the causal relationship between visual experience and its neural changes with musical notation. Novices with no formal musical training experience were trained to visually discriminate between note patterns in the laboratory for 10-26 hr such that their performance was comparable with fluent music readers. The N170 component became more selective for musical notes after training. Training was not, however, followed by changes in the earlier C1 component. The findings show that visual training is enough for causing changes in the responses of the higher-level visual areas to musical notation while the engagement of the early visual areas may involve additional nonvisual factors.

Paulo Ventura, Tania Fernandes, Isabel Leite, Alexandre Pereira, Alan C.-N. Wong (2019)Is holistic processing of written words modulated by phonology?, In: Acta psychologica201pp. 102944-102944 Elsevier B.V

•Investigated whether holistic processing of visual words is modulated by phonology.•Compared the word composite effect for phonological consistent versus phonological inconsistent words.•Evaluated whether the potential modulation by phonology of the word composite effect is fast and automatic.•The results showed that phonologically consistent words showed a robust composite effect while no such effect was found for phonologically inconsistent words.•The modulation of the word composite effect by phonology is automatic and happens rapidly.•Holistic processing of written words is affected by fast and automatic access to lexical phonological representations. Holistic processing, a hallmark of face processing, has been shown for written words, signaled by the word composite effect. Fluent readers find it harder to focus on one half of a written word (e.g., the first syllable of a CV.CV word) while ignoring the other half (e.g., the second syllable), especially when the two halves are aligned rather than misaligned. Given the linguistic nature of written words, in the present study, we examined whether the word composite effect is modulated by phonology. In Experiment 1, participants saw two sequentially presented CV.CV words and had to decide if the left half (first syllable) was the same or not, regardless of the right half. The word pairs were either phonologically consistent (univocal orthography to phonology mapping; e.g., TI is always /ti/ in Portuguese) or inconsistent (orthography can map into different phonological representations; e.g., CA can correspond to /ka/ or /kɐ/). The word composite effect was found for phonologically consistent words but not for phonologically inconsistent words. In Experiment 2, timing of trial events was reduced to test whether the influence of phonology was fast and automatic. Similar to what was found in Experiment 1, the word composite effect was found only for phonologically consistent words. The faster trial events in Experiment 2 rendered it less likely that the influence of phonology in word composite effect is merely a result of strategic processing. These findings suggest that holistic processing of visual words is modulated by fast and automatic activation of lexical phonological representations.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Ken H. M. Yip, Alan C.-N. Wong (2020)Is it impossible to acquire absolute pitch in adulthood?, In: Attention, perception & psychophysics82(3)pp. 1407-1430 Springer US

Absolute pitch (AP) refers to the rare ability to name the pitch of a tone without external reference. It is widely believed to be only for the selected few with rare genetic makeup and early musical training during the critical period, and therefore acquiring AP in adulthood is impossible. Previous studies have not offered a strong test of the effect of training because of issues like small sample size and insufficient training. In three experiments, adults learned to name pitches in a computerized, gamified and personalized training protocol for 12 to 40 hours, with the number of pitches gradually increased from three to twelve. Across the three experiments, the training covered different octaves, timbre, and training environment (inside or outside laboratory). AP learning showed classic characteristics of perceptual learning, including generalization of learning dependent on the training stimuli, and sustained improvement for at least one to three months. 14% of the participants (6 out of 43) were able to name twelve pitches at 90% or above accuracy, comparable to that of ‘AP possessors’ as defined in the literature. Overall, AP continues to be learnable in adulthood, which challenges the view that AP development requires both rare genetic predisposition and learning within the critical period. The finding calls for reconsideration of the role of learning in the occurrence of AP, and pushes the field to pinpoint and explain the differences, if any, between the aspects of AP more trainable in adulthood and the aspects of AP that are potentially exclusive for the few exceptional AP possessors observed in the real world.

C Hui, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Wing Yu Lai, Yetta Kwailing Wong, Alan C.-N. Wong (2020)Beauty and the beast: Promotion concerns and the pursuit of physically attractive mates, In: Journal of personality88(5)pp. 892-907 Wiley

Objective In the mating market, individuals differ in their aspirations to pursue opposite-sex mates who have a relatively higher (vs. similar) level of physical attractiveness. Few studies have explored how motivational concerns outside the mating domain can account for these individual differences in romantic aspiration. Based on regulatory focus theory, this research tested how broad concerns for promotion and prevention influence the aspiration and dating outcome. Method Four studies tested whether promotion concerns increase romantic aspiration and the chance to mate with a more physically attractive partner. The first three studies tested how promotion concerns, either measured (Studies 1a and 2) or manipulated (Study 1b), can influence romantic aspiration. Study 3 further tested how one's chronic promotion concerns are related to the physical attractiveness of the current partner (as rated by observers). Results The first three studies supported the prediction that promotion concerns increase aspiration to pursue more physically attractive mates. The last study also found that, controlling for their own physical attractiveness, individuals with stronger promotion concerns tend to mate with physically attractive partners. Conclusions The results highlight the significant roles of broad motivational concerns in determining both aspiration and chance to date a more physically attractive partner.

Paulo Ventura, Tania Fernandes, Alexandre Pereira, Jose C. Guerreiro, António Farinha-Fernandes, Joao Delgado, Miguel F Ferreira, Bruno Faustino, Isabel Raposo, Alan C.-N. Wong (2020)Holistic word processing is correlated with efficiency in visual word recognition, In: Attention, perception & psychophysics82(5)pp. 2739-2750 Springer Nature

Holistic processing of visual words (i.e., obligatory encoding of/attending to all letters of a word) could be a marker of expert word recognition. In the present study, we thus examined for the first time whether there is a direct relation between the word-composite effect (i.e., all parts of a visual word are fully processed when observers perform a task on a word part) and fast access to the orthographic lexicon by visual word experts (i.e., fluent adult readers). We adopted an individual differences approach and used the word-frequency effect (i.e., faster recognition of high- than low-frequency words) in an independent lexical decision task as a proxy of fast access to lexical orthographic representations. Fluent readers with larger word-composite effect showed smaller word-frequency effect. This correlation was mainly driven by an association between a larger composite effect and faster lexical decision on low-frequency words, probably because these lexical representations are less stable and integrated/unitized, hence allowing differentiating among fluent readers. We thus showed that holistic processing of visual words is indeed related to higher efficiency in visual word recognition by skilled readers.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Vince S. H. Ngan, Leo Y. T. Cheung, Alan C.-N. Wong (2020)Absolute pitch learning in adults speaking non-tonal languages, In: Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)73(11)pp. 1908-1920 Sage

Absolute pitch (AP) refers to labelling individual pitches in the absence of external reference. A widely endorsed theory regards AP as a privileged ability enjoyed by selected few with rare genetic makeup and musical training starting in early childhood. However, recent evidence showed that even adults can learn AP, and some can attain a performance level comparable to natural AP possessors. These training studies involved native tonal language speakers, whose acquisition of AP might be facilitated by tonal language exposure during early childhood. In this study, adults speaking non-tonal languages went through AP training that was 20-hr long, computerised and personalised. Performance on average improved, which was accompanied by enhanced working memory for tones, whereas relative pitch judgement and sensitivity to small pitch differences remained unchanged. Notably, two out of 13 learned to label all 12 pitches within an octave, with accuracy and response time comparable to natural AP possessors. Overall, the findings suggest that tonal language exposure is not a prerequisite for AP learning in adulthood. The understanding of the origin of AP would benefit from considering the role of lifelong learning instead of focusing only on early childhood experience.

Kelvin F. H. Lui, Ken H. M. Yip, Alan C.-N. Wong (2021)Gender differences in multitasking experience and performance, In: Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)74(2)pp. 344-362 Sage

There is a widespread stereotype that women are better at multitasking. Previous studies examining gender difference in multitasking used either a concurrent or sequential multitasking paradigm and offered mixed results. This study examined a possibility that men were better at concurrent multitasking while women were better at task switching. In addition, men and women were also compared in terms of multitasking experience, measured by a computer monitoring software, a self-reported Media Use Questionnaire, a laboratory task-switching paradigm, and a self-reported Multitasking Prevalence Inventory. Results showed a smaller concurrent multitasking (dual-task) cost for men than women and no gender difference in sequential multitasking (task-switching) cost. Men had more experience in multitasking involving video games while women were more experienced in multitasking involving music, instant messaging, and web surfing. The gender difference in dual-task performance, however, was not mediated by the gender differences in multitasking experience but completely explained by difference in the processing speed. The findings suggest that men have an advantage in concurrent multitasking, which may be a result of the individual differences in cognitive abilities.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Kelvin F. H. Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong (2021)A reliable and valid tool for measuring visual recognition ability with musical notation, In: Behavior research methods53pp. 836-845 Springer Nature

Recognizing musical notation is an important skill to a full participation of Western classical music,but remains a largely under-researched topic in the psychology of music. One plausible reason of such omission is that, in the past, the research field has heavily relied on self-report of music reading ability, which was subjective and highly variable. This paper presents a reliable and valid tool for objectively measuring individual abilities in visual recognition of musical notation. The visual fluency task measures how fast one can accurately recognize a sequence of musical notation at a desired accuracy level using the adaptive psychometric method QUEST. We checked the reliability of this task in over 200 participants in terms of Guttman's lambda-2 and Cronbach's alpha. Also, we evaluated the construct validity of this task by considering the convergent validity of this task with multiple external real-world measures of one's musical training background, with numerous experimental measures of visual tendencies of musical notation recognition and with sight-reading performance. Overall, the visual fluency task achieved satisfactory reliability and validity for measuring abilities in recognizing musical notation. This opens the door for characterizing the cognitive mechanisms, development, and individual differences in musical notation recognition, for understanding music learning and music psychology and for understanding of visual perceptual expertise in general.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Christine Kong-Yan Tong, Ming Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong (2021)Perceptual expertise with Chinese characters predicts Chinese reading performance among Hong Kong Chinese children with developmental dyslexia, In: PloS one16(1)e0243440 Public Library of Science

This study explores the theoretical proposal that developmental dyslexia involves a failure to develop perceptual expertise with words despite adequate education. Among a group of Hong Kong Chinese children diagnosed with developmental dyslexia, we investigated the relationship between Chinese word reading and perceptual expertise with Chinese characters. In a perceptual fluency task, the time of visual exposure to Chinese characters was manipulated and limited such that the speed of discrimination of a short sequence of Chinese characters at an accuracy level of 80% was estimated. Pair-wise correlations showed that perceptual fluency for characters predicted speeded and non-speeded word reading performance. Exploratory hierarchical regressions showed that perceptual fluency for characters accounted for 5.3% and 9.6% variance in speeded and non-speeded reading respectively, in addition to age, non-verbal IQ, phonological awareness, morphological awareness, rapid automatized naming (RAN) and perceptual fluency for digits. The findings suggest that perceptual expertise with words plays an important role in Chinese reading performance in developmental dyslexia, and that perceptual training is a potential remediation direction.

Paulo Ventura, Aleksandar Bulajic, Alan C.-N. Wong, Isabel Leite, Frouke Hermens, Alexandre Pereira, Thomas Lachmann (2021)Face and word composite effects are similarly affected by priming of local and global processing, In: Attention, perception & psychophysics83pp. 2189-2204 Springer Nature

Holistic processing has been shown with both faces and words, but it is unclear how similar their underlying mechanisms are. In this study attention to global and local features was manipulated and the consequences for holistic word and face processing were examined. On each trial participants were presented two Navon figures and told to focus on either the global or the local level. Then they performed a composite task in which they indicated whether the target halves of two sequentially presented faces or words were the same or different, ignoring the irrelevant halves. Similar stronger global priming effects were found for faces and words, indicating that holistic processing for the two types of stimuli were susceptible to attention manipulations to similar degrees, which was confirmed with Bayesian analyses. The findings add to the investigation of the similarity and differences between holistic processing and help reveal those aspects of holistic processing that are domain general and those specific to individual categories.

Paulo Ventura, Jose C. Guerreiro, Alexandre Pereira, Joao Delgado, Vivienne Rosario, António Farinha-Fernandes, Miguel Domingues, Francisco Cruz, Bruno Faustino, Alan C.-N. Wong (2022)Change detection vs. change localization for own-race and other-race faces, In: Attention, perception & psychophysics84pp. 627-637

The other-race effect (ORE) is a well-known phenomenon in which people discriminate and recognize faces from their ethnic group more accurately than faces from other ethnic groups. Holistic processing, or the mandatory tendency to process all parts of an object together, has been proposed as an explanation for the ORE. According to the holistic perspective of the ORE, other-race faces might be subject to weaker holistic processing than own-race faces. However, evidence for this hypothesis is inconsistent. Although it is generally assumed that holistic processing helps the individuation of objects, holistic processing may also come at a cost. Specifically, holistic processing may reduce the capacity to localize changes in the constituent parts of an object, but not in detecting changes to an object as a whole. In the present study, we examined change detection and change localization accuracy for Caucasian and African faces, and houses. Performance was better for change detection than change localization for Caucasian faces. While clear costs of holistic processing for Caucasian faces were thus found, the difference between change localization and change detection was not obvious for African faces. However, childhood exposure to other-race people correlated with change detection for African faces, but not with change localization for African faces. Our results thus show that holistic processing of other-race faces may depend on early contact with other-race people.

Paulo Ventura, Vince Ngan, Alexandre Pereira, Francisco Cruz, Jose C. Guerreiro, Vivienne Rosario, Joao Delgado, Bruno Faustino, Marta Barros, Miguel Domingues, Alan Wong (2022)The relation between holistic processing as measured by three composite tasks and face processing: A latent variable modeling approach, In: Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics84(7)pp. 2319-2334 Springer

We investigated the relationship between holistic processing and face processing using a latent variables approach. Three versions of the composite paradigm were used to measure holistic processing: Vanderbilt Holistic Face Processing Test, a sequential composite matching task, and a simultaneous composite matching task. Three tasks were used to measure face perception and face memory abilities respectively. We had three pairs of tasks such that within each pair (of memory and perception task), the stimuli involved, the requirement for matching across viewpoints, etc., are the same, such that the only difference is whether perception or memory is taxed. There were no significant correlations between the different versions of the composite task. We discovered no evidence to support a distinction between face perception and face memory, suggesting the existence of a general face processing factor. Finally, there was no evidence that holistic processing (as captured by either of the three composite tasks) is predictive of better face processing per se, casting doubts on the role of holistic processing in differentiating different levels of efficiency in face processing.

Ken Hoi Ming Yip, Leo Y. T. Cheung, Vince S. H. Ngan, Yetta Kwailing Wong, Alan C.-N. Wong (2022)The effect of task on object processing revealed by EEG decoding, In: European Journal of Neuroscience55(5)pp. 1174-1199 Wiley

Recent studies showed that task demand affects object representations in higher-level visual areas and beyond but not so much in earlier areas. There are, however, limitations in those studies including the relatively weak manipulation of task due to the use of familiar real-life objects, the low temporal resolution in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and the emphasis on the amount and not the source of information carried by brain activations. In the current study, observers categorised images of artificial objects in one of two orthogonal dimensions, shape and texture, while their brain activity was recorded with electroencephalogram (EEG). Results showed that object processing along the texture dimension was affected by task demand starting from a relatively late time (320- to 370-ms time window) after image onset. The findings are consistent with the view that task exerts an effect on the later phases of object processing.

P. Fan, A. C.-N. Wong, Y. K. Wong (2022)Visual and Visual Association Abilities Predict Skilled Reading Performance: The Case of Music Sight-Reading, In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General151(11)pp. 2683-2705 American Psychological Association

The role of visual shape processing in skilled reading is an understudied topic. This study focused on the role of visual and visual association skills in a type of skilled reading, music sight-reading, which refers to the ability to play a piece of music when one reads the score for the first time. One hundred and 43 intermediate-to-advanced musicians were assessed on their sight-reading performance as well as visual fluency for notes, general visual fluency, motor dexterity, visual-auditory association for notes, visual-motor association for numbers, working memory capacity, and executive function. Correlation and regression analyses showed that sight-reading performance can be largely explained by three abilities related to vision, including visual fluency for notes, visual-auditory association for notes, and visual-motor association for numbers (9.99, 10.11, and 4.62% respectively). The findings led to a better understanding of music sight-reading that takes into account the long-overlooked association between visual shape processing ability and sight-reading, which has clear educational implications. The importance of visual shape processing ability may also apply to other domains of skilled reading requiring visual perceptual extraction of visual codes, such as word reading.

Vince S. H. Ngan, Leo Y. T. Cheung, Hezul T. Y. Ng, Ken H. M. Yip, Kwai Ling Wong, Alan C.-N. Wong (2022)An early perceptual locus of absolute pitch, In: Psychophysiologye14170 Wiley

Absolute pitch (AP) refers to the naming of musical tone without external reference. The influential two-component model states that AP is limited by the late-emerging pitch labeling process only and not the earlier perceptual and memory processes. Over the years, however, support for this model at the neural level has been mixed with various methodological limitations. Here, the electroencephalography responses of 27 AP possessors and 27 non-AP possessors were recorded. During both name verification and passive listening, event-related potential analyses showed a difference between AP and non-AP possessors at about 200 ms in their response toward tones compared with noise stimuli. Multivariate pattern analyses suggested that pitch naming was subserved by a series of transient processes for the first 250 ms, followed by a stage-like process for both AP and non-AP possessors with no group differences between them. These findings are inconsistent with the predictions of the two-component model, and instead suggest the existence of an early perceptual locus of AP.

Additional publications