Current Psychology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 68–84 | Cite as

Gestalt and feature-intensive processing: Toward a unified model of human information processing

  • Matthew J. Sharps 
  • Michael A. Nunes 
Studies in Cognition and Memory


“Cognitive asynchrony theory,” recently developed in research on aging and memory, implies a functional distinction between the processing of “feature-intensive” items, those with numerous identifiable features, and the processing of images which are relatively sparse in such features and are handled in a more wholistic, “gestalt” manner. The present experiments addressed the question of whether such a distinction exists outside the realms of memory in which it has thus far been addressed. The present work used mental rotation as a model system. Consistent with the predictions of this model, Experiment 1 showed that feature-intensive figures required significantly more time to rotate than did gestalt figures, even though angles of rotation were the same. Experiment 2 demonstrated that feature-intensive processing may involve verbally-accessible semantic systems to a greater degree than is the case with “gestalt” items. Experiment 3 identified significant practice effects of feature-intensive stimuli on the processing of gestalt stimuli, but not the reverse. The results of these experiments indicate that the “gestalt/feature-intensive” processing distinction extends to mental rotation as well as to memory. Implications for the nature of mental representation of verbal and visual materials are discussed.


Free Recall Mental Rotation Practice Effect Current Psychology Demand Characteristic 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Sharps 
    • 1
  • Michael A. Nunes 
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversitytFresnoUSA

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