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J Exp Child Psychol. 1990 Aug;50(1):1-24.

Developmental differences in visual processing: strategy versus structure.

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  • 1University of California, Los Angeles.


The present study was an examination of two contrasting explanations for the finding that young children tend to classify objects according to similarity relations whereas adults emphasize dimensional structure. Subjects from three different age groups were given tasks that tapped different aspects of the visual process: Feature search, Conjunction search, and Restricted Classification tasks. In addition, three different stimulus objects (a highly separable, a highly integral, and an intermediate dimensional combination) were studied to explore the contribution of stimulus structure in dictating the nature of the processing mode. The results provided evidence against the view that children perceive objects according to a more primitive holistic structure. Rather, the results can be taken with past research to suggest that less efficient visual processing may lead the younger subjects to adopt a classification strategy that emphasizes similarity relations. In addition, the current research supported Garner's (1974, The processing of information and structure, Potomac, MD: Erlbaum) suggestion that the nature of the processing mode is stimulus-driven.

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