Do top and bottom contribute to object perception more than left and right?

Research paper by David D Navon

Indexed on: 11 Nov '08Published on: 11 Nov '08Published in: Psychological research


To examine whether the top-bottom axis has an inherent advantage in object perception over the left-right one, three experiments were conducted. In all of them, on each trial one of two alternative stimuli, identical in shape but opposite in direction (viz, related by reflection), was presented. Both reflection about the vertical axis and reflection about the horizontal axis were applied, in different blocks. In Experiment 1, objects with an orientation-free definition (arrows, incomplete squares) were presented. Subjects were to respond when the stimulus pointed in a specific direction, and to refrain from responding when it was reflected, namely pointed in the opposite direction. Axis of reflection (vertical, horizontal) was varied between blocks. In Experiment 2, the object was a Hebrew character asymmetric on both axes, presented either in its normal appearance or reflected. Subjects were to respond only when the stimulus was normal. Both axis of reflection (vertical, horizontal) and orientation angle (upright, tilted by 90 degrees ) were varied between blocks. In Experiment 3, stimuli were the same as in Experiment 2, but the task explicitly asked for a binary reflection judgment (normal vs. reflected). No sign for the presence of an axis effect was observed in any of those experiments, which seems incompatible with the hypothesis of vertical advantage in object perception. It is suggested that most vertical advantage observed before is due to extra-perceptual processing.