Structure and Process in Perceptual Organization

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This chapter presents the theoretical concepts of structure and process for a better understanding of the perceptual organization/cognitive system. A particularly stubborn and enduring issue in the psychology of perception is the way in which perception might be organized—the primacy of wholes versus parts. Two basic positions on this topic can be traced back to the controversy between two schools of perceptual thought: structuralism and gestalt. The chapter elaborates on the growing usage of the term “wholistic” rather than “analytic” to describe perception. The relationship between the conceptual structure/process distinction and process models is that the stimulus structure and processing aspects, as well as their mutual interaction, need to be represented in any complete information-processing model of the perceptual/cognitive system. That is, analysis guided by the conceptual distinction between structure and process provides useful constraints on what aspects of human information processing must be embodied in the process model. However, it need not predetermine how those aspects are to be represented in the model. A clear notion of the perceptual structure of the stimulus is an important prerequisite for asking meaningful questions about processing. as a general rule, it is important to consider the perceptual structure of the stimuli used to test any processing hypothesis. Stimulus structure and organismic mode of processing must be considered together for understanding the performance on a psychological task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-105
Number of pages29
JournalAdvances in Psychology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1992

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The preparation of this chapter was partially supported by a grant from The Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities to the first author, and by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to the second author. It also benefitted from the facilities of the Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making, University of Haifa.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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