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Object recognition

In a study in the current issue of the journal PLoS One, a team of scientists in Germany showed experts and novices simple geometric objects and simple chess positions and asked the subjects to identify them. Reaction times were measured and brain activity was monitored using functional M.R.I. scans. On the identification of the geometric objects, the subjects performed the same, showing that the chess experts had no special visualization skills. When the subjects were shown the chess positions, the experts identified them faster. Focusing on an element of an earlier study on pattern and object recognition by chess experts, the researchers had expected to see parts of the left hemispheres of the experts’ brains — which are involved in object recognition — react more quickly than those of the novices when they performed the chess tasks. But the reaction times were the same. What set the experts apart was that parts of their right brain hemispheres — which are more involved in pattern recognition — also lit up with activity. The experts were processing the information in two places at once. The researchers also found that when the subjects were shown the chess diagrams, the novices looked directly at the pieces to recognize them, while the experts looked on the middle of the boards and took everything in with their peripheral vision.

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