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Gestalt Reasoning with Conjunctions and Disjunctions

2016-3-17
Dumitru, Magda L.
Joergensen, Gitte H.
Reasoning, solving mathematical equations, or planning written and spoken sentences all must factor in stimuli perceptual properties. Indeed, thinking processes are inspired by and subsequently fitted to concrete objects and situations. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the mental representations evoked when people solve these seemingly abstract tasks should interact with the properties of the manipulated stimuli. Here, we investigated the mental representations evoked by conjunction and disjunction expressions in language-picture matching tasks. We hypothesised that, if these representations have been derived using key Gestalt principles, reasoners should use perceptual compatibility to gauge the goodness of fit between conjunction/disjunction descriptions (e.g., the purple and/or the green) and corresponding binary visual displays. Indeed, the results of three experimental studies demonstrate that reasoners associate conjunction descriptions with perceptually-dependent stimuli and disjunction descriptions with perceptually-independent stimuli, where visual dependency status follows the key Gestalt principles of common fate, proximity, and similarity.