How are Elements of a Scenic Layout Bound Together?

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Previous research provides evidence of representations of scenic layout that are broad in scope (in VSTM: Sanocki, Sellers, & Mittelstadt, VSS01; in a priming paradigm: Sanocki, Cognitive Psychology, in press). The represented scenes involve many objects and surfaces. How could these elements be bound together? Standard explanations involve relations such as Gestalt properties, familiar configural features (e.g., right angle, corner), and semantic belongingness (e.g., same scene-schema). We present a method for testing these hypotheses. The general idea is that, if the representation is bound together by relations, then breaking the relations should disrupt the representation.

Scenic relations were broken by cutting pictures of scenes in two or more pieces and then intermixing the pieces, within and between scenes. The strongest mixup had four pieces, from two scenes, in jumbled positions.

The ability to represent such scenes was measured with a priming paradigm. A scenic prime (a mixed or unmixed scene) was presented for one sec, followed by a blank interval, and then a target. The target was identical to the prime except for two spatial probes superimposed on it; observers indicated which probe was closer to viewpoint. With normal scenes, spatial processing is speeded by the scenic prime, relative to uninformative control primes. The prime activated a representation that was useful during the spatial processing of the target. Will mixed primes also speed spatial processing of their identical targets?

We found that they can, when the spatial relations probed in the target are local in nature. The strongest mixups (4 pieces from 2 scenes) speeded spatial processing as much as unmixed scenes. Thus, four separate bundles of local relations were represented. However, when global spatial relations were probed, breaking scene relations greatly reduced the priming effect and, presumably, the integrity of the representation.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Vision, v. 3, issue 9, art. 642