Do response time advantage and interference reflect the order of processing of global- and local-level information?
Navon's (1977) global precedence hypothesis was based primarily on the joint occurrence of two effects: a response time (RT) advantage for identifying global targets, and interference by global distractors on responding to local targets. Although the hypothesis has been questioned on the basis of experiments in which it has been shown that a local RT advantage and local interference can occur, it is still frequently assumed that these two effects are a valid measure of the order in which local and global levels of structure are processed. In the present experiment, this assumption was examined. Subjects identified target letters that occurred randomly at the global or local level in a divided-attention task. The visual angle subtended by the stimulus pattern was varied, a manipulation known to affect the relative speed of response to local- or global-level information. Local targets were identified faster than global targets at the larger visual angles, but there was no difference in RT at the smallest visual angle. Despite this change in RT advantage, the interference effect did not change as a function of the visual angle of the stimulus pattern. Moreover, global distractors interfered with responding to local targets but local targets had no effect on responding to global targets, which is exactly the opposite of the finding one would expect if RT advantage and interference reflected order of processing. These findings are not consistent with the assumption that RT advantage and interference reflect order of processing in a simple way.
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