AuthorMojica, Andrew Joseph
AdvisorPeterson, Mary A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFigure assignment entails competition between object properties on opposite sides of borders. The figure is perceived on the side of the border that wins the competition. Ample evidence indicates that configural familiarity is among the competing object properties. We investigated whether priming the semantics of a familiar object suggested along one side of a border can increase its likelihood of winning the competition. To prime the semantics, we presented brief masked exposures of object names before brief masked exposures of displays where a portion of a familiar object was suggested on one side of a central border separating two equal-area, black-and-white regions. Participants reported whether the figure lay on the left or right side of the central border and were unaware of the presence of the word prime. These experimental primes named either the Same Object (SO) or a Different Object (DO) as the familiar object suggested in the display. In the DO condition, the word named an object either in the Same Category (DO-SC) or a Different Category (DO-DC) as the familiar object suggested in the display, where superordinate category was defined as natural versus artificial objects. We also used non-words as control primes. We hypothesized that, if semantic activation influences figure assignment, participants in the SO and DO-SC conditions should be more likely than participants in the DO-DC condition to perceive the figure on the side where the familiar object lies following experimental primes than control primes. We did not observe differences between experimental and control prime in any condition. However, we did obtain a Prime Context Effect, in that participants were more likely to perceive the figure on the familiar side of the border in the SO and DO-SC conditions than in the DO-DC condition. The Prime Context Effect shows that participants discerned the relationship between the masked word prime and the semantics of the familiar object suggested in the display, and this led them to change their strategy on both experimental and control trials. We also found that behavior changed over the course of the experiment: Participants in the DO-DC condition perceived the figure on the familiar side of the border more often in the second half of the experiment, on both experimental and control trials. This pattern suggests that over the course of the experiment, they learned to rely more on information from the display than from the prime, perhaps by restricting their attention to the time when the figure-ground display appeared. Participants in the DO-SC condition perceived the figure on the familiar side of the border more often on experimental trials in the second half of the experiment, whereas their performance on control trials did not differ in the first and second half. We hypothesize that participants in the DO-SC condition learned to match the superordinate semantics of the experimental prime and the display, leading to semantic priming. Taken together, these results show that (1) participants can quickly learn the relationship between experimental primes and target displays and can change their strategy accordingly, and (2) semantic activation can affect figure assignment.
Degree ProgramGraduate College