We investigated how both objective and subjective organizations affect perceptual organization and how this perceptual organization, in turn, influences observers' performance in a localization search task. Two groups of observers viewing exactly the same stimuli (objective organization) performed in significantly different ways, depending on how they were induced to parse the display (subjective organization). In Experiments 1 and 2, the observers were asked to describe the location of a tilted target among a varying number of vertical or horizontal distractors. Subjective organization was induced by instructing observers to parse the display into either three horizontal regions (rows) or three vertical regions (columns). The position of the target was critical: location performance, as assessed by reaction time and errors, was consistently impaired at the locations adjacent to the boundaries defining the regions, producing what we refer to as the subjective boundary effect. Furthermore, the extent of this effect depended on whether the stimulus-driven and conceptually driven information concurred or conflicted. This made location information more or less accessible. In Experiment 1, the strength of objective grouping was a function of the proximity of the items (near or far conditions) and their orientation in a 6×6 matrix. In Experiment 2, the strength of objective grouping was a function of similarity of color (items were color coded by rows or by columns) and the orientation of the items in a 9×9 matrix. The subjective boundary effect was more pronounced when the display promoted grouping in the direction orthogonal to that of the task (e.g., when observers parsed by rows but vertical distractors were closer together [Experiment 1] or color coded [Experiment 2] to induce global columns). In contrast, this effect decreased when the direction of both objective and subjective organizations was parallel (e.g., when observers parsed by rows and horizontal distractors were closer together [Experiment 1] or were color coded [Experiment 2] to induce global rows). A localization search task proved to be an ideal forum in which objective and subjective organizations interacted. We discuss how these results indicated that observers' performance in a localization task was determined by the interaction of objective and subjective organizations, and that the resulting perceptual organization constrained coarse location information.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Sensory Systems