The Importance of Orienting Attitudes in the Perception of the Hering and Zollner Illusions

In: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
Rebecca L. SilbermanUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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Douglas A. BorsUniversity of Toronto

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By analyzing descriptions of illusory and nonillusory figures, Richer (1978) called into question the common assumption that illusory and nonillusory perceptions were experientially the same and differed only in terms of their accuracy. The present study attempted to replicate Richer's work with a focus on identifying within the subjects' descriptions any orienting attitudes corresponding to these two forms of perception. Nineteen student volunteers were asked to describe two illusory figures (the Hering and the Zollner figures) and a nonillusory control of similar complexity. The descriptions revealed consistent differences between the two forms. However, the Hering and Zollner figures were not always described in illusory terms, and surprisingly, several subjects described the control as if it were illusory. Further, perceptual accuracy was not guaranteed by nonillusory experience. Subjects described the figures from within one of three different orienting attitudes-atomizing, representational, and geometrical-organizing. The latter attitude appeared necessary for the phenomena of illusory perception and experience. Though the present findings confirmed Richer's distinction between illusory and nonillusory experience, they also indicate the need for further differentiation- illusory perception versus illusory experience. Finally, the findings also supported Luria's (1976) and Segall, Campbell, and Herskovits's (1966) position on the importance of particular cultural and educational experiences and codes in relation to perceptual illusions.

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