Forest before trees: Navon (1977)

Aim: To investigate whether or not the whole is perceived before the sum of its parts.

Method: Participants were shown letters. These were large letters and small letters that made up the large letter. The small letters were either similar or dissimilar to the large letters. The time taken to state the large and small letters was measured.

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Results: When the small and large letters were the same, there was no difference in time taken to state the large letters and small letters. When the small and large letters were dissimilar, it took a longer time to state the smaller letters making up the large letter.

Conclusion: In support of the Gestalt school of psychology, the whole is perceived before the sum of its parts. This is due to our tendency to actively organise what we perceive to give stimuli order, symmetry and coherence.

Evaluation: Despite its lack of application to the real world and the basic nature of the Gestaltian principles, it can’t be denied that the distinction between sensation and perception is evident in this experiment. This study also provides support to Gregory’s top-down theory of visual perception which has many other empirical findings to support it.

 

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