Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Holistic processing: Seeing the trees and missing the forest

Date:
May 9, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
The phenomenon known as holistic processing is best known in faces. Most people see faces as a whole, not as two eyes a nose and a mouth. But holistic processing happens in other cases, too, and can even be taught. One possible explanation is that holistic processing emerges from expertise, but the truth is much more nuanced, according to new research.

The phenomenon known as holistic processing is best known in faces. Most people see faces as a whole, not as two eyes a nose, and a mouth. But holistic processing happens in other cases, too, and can even be taught. One possible explanation is that holistic processing emerges from expertise, but the truth is much more nuanced, according to the authors of a new review published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Related Articles


"Holistic processing has been measured for years and years in different ways," says Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University, who co wrote the paper with Jennifer J. Richler, also of Vanderbilt, and Yetta K. Wong of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The new article was inspired by two recent studies on holistic processing that found opposite results. One study, by Alan Wong, Tom Palmeri and Gauthier, found that it was possible to train people so they were experts in recognizing made-up objects called Greebles. As you'd expect, once they were experts in looking at these strange objects, they processed them holistically, like a face. But a study by found the opposite: novices process Chinese characters holistically, while experts don't. "That's a paradox," Gauthier says.

To explain this paradox, Gauthier and her colleagues tested people in another area of expertise: music. Specifically, they tested how people look at written music. Through several studies, they found that both experts and novices seemed to use holistic processing, but they did it for different reasons. For people who didn't know how to read music, it was strategic. "It seemed to be a way for people to try to do the best they could -- they were trying to look at the whole thing," she says. Experts, on the other hand, seemed to grasp a whole section of music at once.

The results of all of these studies suggest that the common explanation of holistic processing -- it comes with expertise -- isn't the whole story, Gauthier says. "You can get holistic processing in novices or experts, but it doesn't have to be the same thing." She says the assumption that holistic processing comes from expertise has sent researchers in the wrong direction.

This has applications outside the research world, too. People with autism have trouble recognizing faces, so one way to help them function better in society might be to teach them holistic processing. Gauthier says psychologists should be cautious about this and keep in mind that we don't know everything about the phenomenon. "The message is really: it's not that simple. We need to make sure that when we assess outcomes, the holistic processing that a treatment teaches is the kind that experts use, not the kind that novices are limited by."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. J. Richler, Y. K. Wong, I. Gauthier. Perceptual Expertise as a Shift From Strategic Interference to Automatic Holistic Processing. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011; 20 (2): 129 DOI: 10.1177/0963721411402472

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Holistic processing: Seeing the trees and missing the forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110504123635.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, May 9). Holistic processing: Seeing the trees and missing the forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110504123635.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Holistic processing: Seeing the trees and missing the forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110504123635.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins