I conducted an experiment to investigate the theory of perceptual set which is an aspect of the top down theory of perception. I based this experiment on a similar one conducted by Bruner and Minturn in 1955 who tried to demonstrate that immediate visual and environmental context can effect perception of an ambiguous figure. Their results proved this to be the case and this experiment is used to support the theory of perceptual set.
In my version of this experiment, I hoped to produce similar results to prove that previous environmental stimuli have an affect on the perception of following visual data.
The hypothesis of this experiment was: The immediate physical context will directly affect the way in which later data is perceived.
I used an experiment as my research method, as considering the topic of this investigation it would be the most apt, and would allow me to obtain results easier. There was also little way in which I could investigate this topic using a case study method.
I also felt that the matched pairs design would be the most appropriate as it prevented extraneous variables becoming a problem, such as gender and age. I used opportunity sampling as my sampling method, as it was the quickest and easiest option. The sample used was 20 girls ages 16-17 attending a girls grammar school in Bexleyheath.
The results I obtained did not differ greatly from those collected by Bruner and Minturn, producing a percentage of 85% correctly predicted answers. This proves my experimental hypothesis correct, showing that perception is indeed affected by previously attended to information.
Perceptual set is the Top Down theory stating that the mind prepares the person for what they are about to see, judged on what has been seen beforehand, e.g. if you are exposed to a set of animals, your mind assumes the next object will also be an animal and so prepares itself to perceive it as such. This is part of the top-down approach which is a constructivist theory. One study that concerns this was conducted by Minturn and Bruner (1951). They used an independent design method of experimentation. They used an ambiguous figure that could be perceived as either a ‘B’ or a ’13’ and so split the participants into two groups, and presented one with the ambiguous figure alongside letters and the other with numbers. They group shown numbers perceived the indefinite figure as such, whereas the ‘letter’ group reported it as being a ‘B’.
I wish to conduct a similar experiment in order to test this theory myself.
To prove or disprove Gregory’s perceptual set theory using ambiguous letters and related words, through an experiment based on that of Bruner and Milton.
I have chosen to present my hypotheses as one-tailed because although there are two conditions, the dependant variable is singular, i.e. just how the word is perceived, so there will not be more results from one than the other and so I can not compare conditions in such a manner as I would be able to was I testing the amount of words
Experimental Hypothesis – The participants will read the ambiguous word as one relating to the set of words read or pictures seen beforehand
Null Hypothesis – The participants will not read the ambiguous word as one relating to the set of words read or pictures seen beforehand
I have chosen to use an experiment as my research method for reasons I will state in my Abstract. I have studied the investigation conducted by Bruner and Minturn and have noted that the most appropriate form of collecting raw data from this experiment will have to be written rather than conveyed verbally due to the number of participants. I do not want them to be influenced by others’ perceptions of the ambiguous word and so will collect their ‘answer’ from them on a piece of paper. I will also conduct the experiment in controlled conditions to make it replicable. Anonymity is important as I feel it is necessary to conform to the ethical issues I will have to consider when performing this investigation. It will also help to eliminate potential bias that may occur if I personally know some of the participants
Confidentiality is on of the ethics I will conform to, to make this experiment a humane one and to make it fair on the participants. It respects their privacy and makes it more likely that they are giving an honest answer as there is no fear of a negative response. To ensure this is the case, it will be stated in my standardised instructions not to write their name on the paper issued.
Another ethical consideration is that of the right to withdraw from the experiment. I will in incorporate this into my consent forms and also the standardised instructions as a way to inform participants of this, and to make sure that anyone feeling uncomfortable during the investigation is not under any obligation to remain a part of it.
Briefing and debriefing will also be taken into account, and so they are to be briefed beforehand where it will be made clear what their task is and what the investigation will involve. Although I will not be able to fully brief them in regards to my aim and hypothesis, I will state this in the debriefing that will occur after the experiment is finished.
Consent is a major issue when discussing ethics, and so I plan to send out consent forms to the head-teacher of the school and to the form tutor of the participants as they are in loco-parentus, making obtaining permission quicker and easier.
No psychological trauma or physical harm will happen to the participants and the pictures shown are of a neutral nature without the possibility of causing offence or upset, meaning the participants will leave the experiment in the same physical and psychological state they entered it in.
Independent Variable: This is the condition I will be manipulating in order to monitor the change in results and in this experiment the independent variable is the topic of the words and pictures shown.
Dependant Variable: This is the thing that changes due to the manipulation of the independent variable and it is what I will be measuring. In this case it is the definition drawn or written of the ambiguous word.
Extraneous Variables: These are the other things that may affect the dependant variable other than the independent variable that must be controlled to the best of our ability in order to ensure a cause-effect relationship and reliable results. They are split in to two groups.
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