Local-global processing bias is not a unitary individual difference in visual processing

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Abstract

A large body of research reports individual differences in local and global visual processing in relation to expertise, culture and psychopathology. However, recent research has suggested that various different measures of local-global processing are not strongly associated with one another, calling its construct validity into question. The current study sought to further explore the validity of local-global processing biases in perception by developing three tasks based on two existing paradigms: the Embedded Figures Test (EFT) and the Navon hierarchical letters task. The newly developed tasks aimed to control for stimulus and response factors that may have impacted upon the reliability of previous research. They were administered to a large sample of undergraduate students (N > 100). The results of two new versions of the EFT indicated that disembedding performance is influenced by the structure of the embedding context. In addition, global precedence and interference in the Navon task remained present even when local attentional approaches to global hierarchical stimuli were restricted. Inter-task correlations within the EFT were high but low between the EFT and the Navon task, lending support to the notion that local-global processing is not a monolithic construct, but representative of a number of distinct perceptual abilities and biases. Future research may use these task distinctions to pinpoint more precisely which aspects of perceptual processing characterise specific (clinical) participant populations.

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