MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Perceptual Processing Theories and Gestalt

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Example Question #1 : Perceptual Processing Theories And Gestalt

Perception is the process that occurs when the brain processes sensory stimuli and translates them in a way that a person can understand. Perception is not usually a conscious process; furthermore, sensing a particular stimulus is a different process than the interpretation (i.e. perception) of that stimulus. 

A team of perception researchers decided to test the difference between sensation and perception by testing the reading speed of a paragraph in three conditions. In the first condition, the researchers correctly spelled the words in the sentences. In the second condition, they had the same words with the letters randomly jumbled within each word; however, the first and last letter of each word remained in the correct position. In the third condition, researchers used the same words and randomly jumbled every letter in each word, including the first and last letters. Sample sentences from the paragraphs are below: 

1). Mary crossed the street to purchase a cookie after lunch. 

2). Mray csorsed the sretet to pruachse a ckooie atfer lnuch.

3). Rmya rsocsed het teerst to curaepshs a okocei feart culhn.

The researchers timed how long it took for the participants to correctly say a sentence fluently. They found that participants in condition three took significantly more time to read the sentence fluently, whereas they found no significant difference in the average amount of time it took participants to read the passage in condition one compared to condition two. 

Suppose the researchers wanted to test the Gestalt principle of proximity. In order to do this, they might consider which of the following options?

Possible Answers:

Test if varying the font of words impacted reading fluency. 

Test if varying the size of the words impacted reading fluency. 

Test if varying the color of words impacted reading fluency. 

Test if varying the amount of space between words impacted reading fluency. 

Correct answer:

Test if varying the amount of space between words impacted reading fluency. 

Explanation:

The Gestalt principle of proximity suggests that the closer objects are to one another, the more likely they will be grouped together. This is why we leave larger spaces between words than we do letters. Testing if varying the amount of space between words impacted reading fluency would be testing proximity whereas varying color, font, or size would be testing the Gestalt principle of similarity, which posits that objects that are visually similar (in size shape or color) are likely to be grouped together. 

Example Question #2 : Perceptual Processing Theories And Gestalt

Perception is the process that occurs when the brain processes sensory stimuli and translates them in a way that a person can understand. Perception is not usually a conscious process; furthermore, sensing a particular stimulus is a different process than the interpretation (i.e. perception) of that stimulus. 

A team of perception researchers decided to test the difference between sensation and perception by testing the reading speed of a paragraph in three conditions. In the first condition, the researchers correctly spelled the words in the sentences. In the second condition, they had the same words with the letters randomly jumbled within each word; however, the first and last letter of each word remained in the correct position. In the third condition, researchers used the same words and randomly jumbled every letter in each word, including the first and last letters. Sample sentences from the paragraphs are below: 

1). Mary crossed the street to purchase a cookie after lunch. 

2). Mray csorsed the sretet to pruachse a ckooie atfer lnuch.

3). Rmya rsocsed het teerst to curaepshs a okocei feart culhn.

The researchers timed how long it took for the participants to correctly say a sentence fluently. They found that participants in condition three took significantly more time to read the sentence fluently, whereas they found no significant difference in the average amount of time it took participants to read the passage in condition one compared to condition two. 

Suppose the researchers wanted to also test whether reading fluency in the three conditions varied by language status (i.e., native English speaker vs. participants who learned English as a second language later in life). Whereas in the original study, participants in conditions one and two did not vary significantly in reading fluency, participants who learned English as a second language later in life were slower at reading the sentences in condition two compared to condition one. Given this effect, the researchers would be most likely to conclude which of the following? 

Possible Answers:

Native English speakers rely more heavily on top-down processing whereas individuals who learned English as a second language later in life rely more on bottom-up processing in reading. 

Individuals who learned English as a second language later are more likely to have reading disorders. 

Native English speakers rely more heavily on bottom-up processing whereas individuals who learned English as a second language later in life rely more on top-down processing in reading. 

Native English speakers are less likely to use a-priori knowledge of the English language to form fast mental impressions of words. 

Correct answer:

Native English speakers rely more heavily on top-down processing whereas individuals who learned English as a second language later in life rely more on bottom-up processing in reading. 

Explanation:

Native English speakers would probably have much more exposure to English words from a young age; therefore, they have more a-priori knowledge (i.e. a top-down approach) of the features of English words compared to non-native speakers who probably rely more on the decoding of individual letters to form a word (i.e. a bottom-up approach). Even though fluency was poorer in condition two for non-native speakers, this does not mean that they have a reading disorder. 

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