Visual similarity is greater for line drawings of nonliving than living things: The importance of musical instruments and body-parts
It has been argued that greater intra-category structural similarity for living things, and the subsequent ‘‘visual crowding,’’ makes them more difficult to recognize and name for neurologically damaged individuals and normal subjects (Humphreys et al., 1988). Nevertheless, the precise meaning and quantification of structural similarity remains unclear, as does the rationale for why it necessarily should be greater for living things. We derived a new measure of visual overlap from the Snodgrass and Vanderwart corpus of line drawings: the degree of pixel overlap within subcategories (Euclidean distance: ED). Contrary to existing notions of visual crowding and extant measures of contour overlap, within-category ED indicated less within-category visual overlap for living things. Furthermore, musical instruments clustered with living things (having low overlap), while body parts clustered with nonliving things (having high overlap). These counter-intuitive findings accord with patient data and thus, provide evidence for the psychological reality and utility of ED.