Configuration constancy : I. The effect of changes in the intrinsic organization



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This study is part of a larger project undertaken in cooperation with the University of Texas and sponsored by the Human Resources Research Center, Lackland Air Force Base. The larger project Is concerned with the spatial orientation of pilots and navigators in flight. One means the pilot or navigator has of orienting himself is by recognising his relationship to a group of objects, regardless of their identity. In the transposition of a configuration from radar score or land marks to a chart, the individual components may undergo some distortion, although the configuration remains constant. The intrinsic organization of a configuratlon may ba changed in (1) form or shape of the elements; (2) size of the elements; (3) orientation of the elements; (4) distance between the elements. The present study was concerned - with how these factors in the intrinsic organization of the configuration may effect recognition. A university student population was subdivided into two groups of fifty each, an experimental and control group, sixty Identical inspection stimuli were presented to both groups. These stimuli contained a configuration composed of three elements with a black dot as a center reference point. The control group was also presented with sixty series of four test stimuli; one of the four test stimuli contained a configuration identical to the configuration in the corresponding inspection stimlus. The experimental group was also presented with sixty series of four test stimuli, one of which contained the correct configuration. In the experimental group, fifteen of tho test stimuli were changed in form, fifteen changed in sise, fifteen were changed in distance, and fifteen changed In orientation. The score was the number of configurations correctly identified. An extensive statistical analysis Indicated a significant difference between the experimental and control groups. There was no reliable difference between the items arranged in order of difficulty. The two changes in the Intrinsic organization which most significantly effected the recognition of configurations were: (1) orientation of the elements, and (2) distance between the elements. Size of the elements also showed a reliable difference as compared with the control group. Although form was not reliably different from the control group, there was some difference noted in mean score. All four factors showed a consistent difference from each other in percentage of correct responses on every item in the test. Orientation and distance were reliably different from form in effecting the recognition of configurations. A comparison between the first and second thirty items on the test for both the control and experimental groups showed no reliable difference between mean scores. The correlations between the two halves of the test for both the experimental and control groups were low. Although there was no change In the means between the two halves of the test, there was a shift in rank order of individuals. This may be accounted for by momentary changes in attention, motivation, and set. These factors require further Investigation. The results of this study clearly siiow the effect of changes in the intrinsic organisation of configurations on tile ability to recognise configurations. The two changes which produced the greatest effect are (1) orientation of the elements; (2) distance between elements. Changes in the size of elements also showed a reliable difference. There are other factors, external to the organization of the configuration, which also effect the recognition of configurations and which require further investigation.



Space perception, Perception, Orientation (Psychology)