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Mitsouko van Assche, Pierre Gos, Anne Giersch; Does flexibility in perceptual organization compete with automatic grouping?. Journal of Vision 2012;12(2):6. doi: 10.1167/12.2.6.
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Segregated objects can be sought simultaneously, i.e., mentally “re-grouped.” Although the mechanisms underlying such “re-grouping” clearly differ from automatic grouping, it is unclear whether or not the end products of “re-grouping” and automatic grouping are the same. If they are, they would have similar impact on visual organization but would be in conflict. We compared the consequences of grouping and re-grouping on the performance cost induced by stimuli presented across hemifields. Two identical and contiguous target figures had to be identified within a display of circles and squares alternating around a fixation point. Eye tracking was used to check central fixation. The target pair could be located in the same or separate hemifields. A large cost of presenting targets across hemifields was observed. Grouping by connectedness yielded two types of target pair, connected and unconnected. Subjects prioritized unconnected pairs efficiently when prompted to do so, suggesting “re-grouping.” However, unlike automatic grouping, this did not affect the cost of across-hemifield presentation. The suggestion is that re-grouping yields different outputs to automatic grouping, such that a fresh representation resulting from re-grouping complements the one resulting from automatic grouping but does not replace it. This is one step toward understanding how our mental exploration of the world ties in and coexists with ongoing perception.
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