Primacy of wholistic processing and global/local paradigm: A critical review

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The question of whether perception is analytic or wholistic is an enduring issue in psychology. The global-precedence hypothesis, considered by many as a modern version of the Gestaltist claim about the perceptual primacy of wholes, has generated a large body of research, but the debate still remains very active. This article reviews the research within the global/local paradigm, and critically analyzes the assumptions underlying this paradigm. The extent to which this line of research contributes to understanding the role of wholistic processing in object perception is discussed. It is concluded that one should be very cautious in making inferences about wholistic processing from the processing advantage of the global level of stimulus structure. A distinction is proposed between global properties, defined by their position in the hierarchical structure of the stimulus, and wholistic properties, defined as a function of interrelations among component parts. It is suggested that a direct comparison between processing of wholistic and component properties is needed to support the hypothesis about the perceptual primacy of wholistic processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-38
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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