Hierarchical organisation in perception of orientation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to Rock [1990, in The Legacy of Solomon Asch (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates)], hierarchical organisation of perception describes cases in which the orientation of an object is affected by the immediately surrounding elements in the visual field. Various experiments were performed to study the hierarchical organisation of orientation perception. In most of them the rod-and-frame-illusion (RFI: change of the apparent vertical measured on a central rod surrounded by a tilted frame) was measured in the presence/absence of a second inner frame. The first three experiments showed that, when the inner frame is vertical, the direction and size of the illusion are consistent with expectancies based on the hierarchical organisation hypothesis. An analysis of published and unpublished data collected on a large number of subjects showed that orientational hierarchical effects are independent from the absolute size of the RFI. In experiments 4 to 7 we examined the perceptual conditions of the inner stimulus (enclosure, orientation, and presence of luminance borders) critical for obtaining a hierarchical organisation effect. Although an inner vertical square was effective in reducing the illusion (experiment 3), an inner circle enclosing the rod was ineffective (experiment 4). This indicates that definite orientation is necessary to modulate the illusion. However, orientational information provided by a vertical or horizontal rectangle presented near the rod, but not enclosing it, did not modulate the RFI (experiment 5). This suggests that the presence of a figure with oriented contours enclosing the rod is critical. In experiments 6 and 7 we studied whether the presence of luminance borders is important or whether the inner upright square might be effective also if made of subjective contours. When the subjective contour figure was salient and the observers perceived it clearly, its effectiveness in modulating the RFI was comparable to that observed with luminance borders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-979
Number of pages15
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hierarchical organisation in perception of orientation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this