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01-09-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2015

Psychological Research 5/2015

Priming effects on the perceived grouping of ambiguous dot patterns

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2015
Daniel D. Kurylo, Farhan Bukhari


For ambiguous stimuli, complex dynamics guide processes of perceptual grouping. Previous studies have suggested two opposing effects on grouping that are produced by the preliminary stimulus state: one that enhances grouping towards the existing structure, and another that opposes this structure. To examine effects of the preliminary state on grouping directly, measurements were made of perceived grouping of dot patterns that followed a visual prime. Three stimuli were presented in sequence: prime, target, and mask. Targets were composed of an evenly spaced dot grid in which grouping was established by similarity in luminance. Subjects indicated the dominant perceived grouping. The prime either corresponded to or opposed the prevailing organization of the target. Contrary to the hypothesis, solid-line primes biased grouping away from the structure of the prime, even when the prevailing organization of dot patterns strongly favored the primes’ structure. This effect occurred, although to a lesser extent, when primes did not occupy the same location of targets, but were presented in a marginal area surrounding the grid. Priming effects did not occur for primes constructed of dot patterns. Effects found here may be attributed to a forward masking effect by primes, which more effectively disrupts grouping of patterns matched to the prime. Effects may also be attributed to a type of pattern contrast, in which a grouped pattern dissimilar to primes gains salience. For the pattern contrast model, the partial activation of multiple grouped configurations is compared to the pattern of the solid-line primes.

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