Leeuwenberg E, van der Helm P, 1991, "Unity and variety in visual form" Perception 20(5) 595 – 622
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Unity and variety in visual form
Emanuel Leeuwenberg, Peter van der Helm
Received 26 April 1990, in revised form 17 December 1990
Abstract. Some stimuli are perceived as unitary patterns, and others as dual or plural patterns. Such 'unity-and-variety' phenomena are explained by various process approaches of perception, such as the global precedence hypothesis, the preattentive orientation detection assumption, and the recognition-by-components model. However, these three approaches, which will be discussed in this paper, each explain a different subset of these phenomena. It will be argued that not only these three subsets but also other unity-and-variety phenomena can be explained from just one point of view by adopting the descriptive minimum principle. This principle states that the preferred interpretation of a pattern is reflected by the simplest of all possible representations of that pattern. The highest hierarchical level in the simplest pattern-representation will be called the 'superstructure' of the pattern. The superstructure of a pattern neither refers necessarily to the largest or global pattern component, nor is assessed nesessarily in a primary stage in the perception process. Yet, it will be argued that the superstructure is decisive in determining whether a shape is perceived either as unitary or as dual.
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