What does a compound letter tell the psychologist's mind?

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The paradigm based on using compound stimuli for studying global and local processing is revisited. Noting that not all researchers employ compound stimuli for the same purpose, the issue of its purpose is discussed. It is argued that the paradigm is pertinent for examining at least three notions-formation preference, global addressability, and within-object global precedence. It is suggested that findings in the paradigm are accommodated well by a disjunction of those three perceptual dispositions. A number of further issues associated with the interpretation of findings obtained with it are examined as well. An experimental study is reported that is meant to examine one such issue - a possible artifact putatively introduced by the special attribute of element homogeneity characteristic of compound stimuli. Seven experiments were used to examine to what extent, if at all, global advantage observed in compound stimulus paradigms depends on element heterogeneity. Across those experiments, heterogeneity did not have any effect that could be interpreted as suggesting that the paradigm is biased in favor of the global structure due to element homogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-309
Number of pages37
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Compound letters
  • Compound stimuli
  • Configural properties
  • Element homogeneity
  • Field organization
  • Formation preference
  • Global addressability
  • Global advantage
  • Global precedence
  • Global/local processing
  • Hierarchical stimuli
  • Hierarchically organized structure
  • Holism
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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