Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Good Continuation Affects Discrimination of Visual Pattern Information in Young Infants

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Good Continuation Affects Discrimination of Visual Pattern Information in Young Infants

Article excerpt

A familiarization-novelty preference procedure was used to determine whether 3- to 4-month-old and 6- to 7-month-old infants utilize the Gestalt principle of good continuation to organize visual patterns. The study involved presentation of a target item (i.e., a square or diamond) either in-line or off-line with a set of distractor items (i.e., circles). Infants in both age groups responded to a change in the target element in the off-line, but not in the in-line, condition. The results suggest that infants organize visual pattern information in accord with the principle of good continuation. Implications of this finding for models of the ontogenesis and microgenesis of object perception in infants and adults are discussed.

Processes of perceptual organization are believed to provide representations that form coherent units in the visual cognition system of adults (Palmer, 1999). Recent investigations of perceptual grouping by adults have been informative in ( 1 ) introducing new organizational principles (Palmer, 1992; Palmer & Rock, 1994), (2) providing evidence that grouping can occur at early or late stages of visual processing (Palmer, Brooks, & Nelson, 2003; Peterson & Gibson, 1994), and (3) suggesting that various Gestalt principles are differentially powerful or operational at different times in the overall course of processing (Ben-Av & Sagi, 1995; Ran, Humphreys, & Chen, 1999; Kurylo, 1997). This work has led to a newly emerging view that perceptual organization is not a monolithic phenomenon, but, rather, represents a confluence of multiple processes (Behrmann & Kimchi, 2003).

Given Gestalt claims that perceptual grouping reflects the activity of a nervous system that comes preconstructed to impose organization upon first presentation of a visual pattern (Köhler, 1929), developmental research conducted over the last decade has begun to investigate the origins and development of perceptual unit formation during infancy. Investigations have focused on ( 1 ) identifying the grouping principles that lead to organized representations of visual pattern information (Quinn, Brown, & Streppa, 1997; Quinn, Burke, & Rush, 1993), (2) determining the time course of development of the principles (Farroni, Valenza, Simion, & Umiltà, 2000; Johnson & Aslin, 1995), and (3) understanding the developmental factors (i.e., maturation and experience) that affect the emergence of the different principles (Johnson & Aslin, 1996; Kellman, 1996; Needham & Kaufman, 1997; Quinn & Bhatt, 2005; Spelke, 1982). In accord with the theoretical trend in the adult literature, the data suggest that different organizational principles may become functional over different time courses of development and that not all principles are automatically deployed in the manner originally proposed by Gestalt theorists (Quinn, Bhatt, Brush, Grimes, & Sharpnack, 2002). As a consequence, current work is examining the functionality of a range of organizational principles with a variety of stimuli (Johnson, 1998; Needham & Ormsbee, 2003; Quinn, 2006).

The focus of the present study is to investigate whether infants organize visual pattern information in accord with the principle of good continuation or continuity (Wertheimer, 1923/1958). In studies conducted with adults, there have been conflicting reports about the strength and timing of good continuation as a grouping principle. For example, Kurylo (1997) reported that grouping by good continuation required more processing time than did grouping by proximity, thereby suggesting a late deployment for good continuation in the sequence of visual processing operations. However, Behrmann and Kimchi (2003) have argued that good continuation is easily adhered to as a grouping principle, even by patients with visual agnosia, and is likely to be accomplished by early visual processes (see also Pomerantz, 1981, 1983). This idea has received additional support from neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies suggesting that good continuation grouping is based on the neural transactions occurring in V1 and V2 of the visual cortex (Lamme & Roelfsema, 2000; Lee, 2003; Sugita, 1999;Westheimer, 1999). …

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