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Karen B. Schloss, Madeline McComb; Perceptual Organization Influences Memory, Search, and Aesthetic Judgment. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):805. doi: 10.1167/13.9.805.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
According early Gestalt Psychologists, the organization within a stimulus can strongly influence memory (Köhler, 1947; 1958). In this study, we tested how perceptual grouping among elements in a visual display influences memory for paired associations (Experiment 1). Participants were shown a display containing four fictitious molecules, along with their names for 15 sec, and were asked to remember the name of each molecule and how many "spokes" it had. Following a 12-sec delay of counting backwards aloud, participants were prompted with one of the names and were asked to report the corresponding molecule’s number of spokes. Memory was better when the associated elements (molecule—name pairs) were more strongly grouped by proximity (Wertheimer, 1932) and common region (Palmer, 1992) during study. One possible explanation for this effect is that the more strongly grouped displays were organized more rapidly, leaving more time for encoding. We tested this hypothesis using a visual search task (Experiment 2). While the displays from Experiment 1 remained on the screen, participants were prompted with one of the molecule’s names and were asked to report how many spokes it had. Participants were faster and more accurate when searching in displays with more strongly grouped molecule—name pairs. Therefore, faster organization may account for the memory effects observed in Experiment 1. Given previous evidence that aesthetic preferences increase with ease of processing, or perceptual fluency (e.g., Reber et al., 2004), we hypothesized that people would also aesthetically prefer the strongly grouped displays from Experiments 1 and 2. When asked to judge aesthetic preferences for these displays in a 2AFC task, participants did indeed prefer displays that were easier to remember and facilitated faster search (Experiment 3). Our results indicate that there are important interactions between perceptual organization and higher-level cognition (e.g., memory and aesthetic judgments).
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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