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Am J Psychol. 1984 Spring;97(1):109-26.

Force of symmetry in form perception.

Abstract

Many objects, natural and manufactured, have at least one axis of symmetry; thus, the detection of symmetry could facilitate the detection and representation of objects. Literature is reviewed that supports the notion that humans have effective and efficient symmetry-detection ability. The question addressed in the present research is whether symmetry detection leads to biases in representations of visual forms. Two types of experimental tasks were used: a similarity-judgment task and a matching-figures task in which reaction time to find identical figures in a display was measured. Stimuli varied in degree of measured symmetry. The results of the experiments reported here indicate that nearly symmetric standard forms are judged to be more similar to, and are more confusable with, even more symmetric forms than they are with less symmetric forms. The pull toward a more symmetric form does not occur for standard forms of lower symmetry. These findings can be accounted for by a two-stage process. First, the perceiver quickly determines the presence of overall symmetry. Then, if the form is perceived as having overall symmetry, the form is assumed, sometimes incorrectly, to have symmetry at the local level as well.

PMID:
6721005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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