Separability and Integrality of Global and Local Levels of Hierarchical Patterns

Ruth Kimchi, Stephen E. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used a constrained classification task to examine the perceptual relations between global and local levels in hierarchical patterns composed of many, relatively small elements and those composed of few, relatively large elements. In Experiments 1 and 3 subjects were asked to make classifications based on "form" or "texture." In Experiments 2 and 4 they were asked to classify according to the "shape" of the configuration or the elements. The results indicate that configural and elemental levels are perceptually separable for many-element patterns when processed as form and texture: Subjects could attend to either level without being affected by variation along the irrelevant dimension. However, when the same many-element patterns were processed for global and local shape, subjects could not selectively attend to either level. For few-element patterns, global configuration and local elements appeared to be perceptually integral dimensions. These results are relevant to two issues: the global precedence hypothesis and the explanations of integral and separable dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-688
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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