Configural and analytical processing of familiar and unfamiliar objects

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2005 Aug;24(3):436-41. doi: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.02.012. Epub 2005 Mar 31.


Configural processing could develop for non-face visual objects as one becomes familiar with those objects through repeated exposure. To explore the role of familiarity in object recognition, we studied the effect of adaptation to a visual object (adapting stimulus) on the identification performance of other objects (test stimulus) while adapting and test stimuli were exactly the same, shared parts or were completely different. We used a subset of English alphabets (p, q, d and b) as familiar objects and an unfamiliar set of symbols constructed from same parts but with different configurations. Adaptation to a member of each set led to a lower identification performance for that object in a crowding paradigm. Adaptation to each member of the unfamiliar set resulted in decreased identification performance for the same object and those members of the set that shared parts with the adapting stimulus. But no such transfer of adaptation was observed for the familiar set. Our results support the notion that processing of object parts plays an important role in the recognition of unfamiliar objects while recognition of familiar objects is mainly based on configural processing mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*