Young A W, Deregowski J B, 1981, "Learning to see the impossible" Perception 10(1) 91 – 105
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Learning to see the impossible
Andrew W Young, Jan B Deregowski
Received 11 November 1978, in revised form 18 June 1980
Abstract. Four experiments investigating children's ability to detect the impossibility of impossible figures are reported. In the first, children were required to identify the impossible figure from a pair of corresponding possible and impossible figures. Whilst seven-year-old children were able to detect the impossibility of certain impossible figures, their overall level of performance was lower than that of older children. Regardless of age, the impossibility of some types of figure was found to be relatively easy or difficult to detect. Experiment 2 confirmed this pattern of results using a task that required children to copy possible and impossible figures from memory. Experiment 3 showed that, when the impossibility of an impossible figure is not readily detected, this is not due to failure to understand the conventions used in that figure to represent depth and solidity. In experiment 4 predictions from different hypotheses concerning the principal factor responsible for the detection of impossibility were tested. Results support the view that the detection of impossibility requires the construction of a mental representation (internal model) of the inter-relationships of the constituent parts of the depicted object. It is suggested that the construction of such internal models may be of general importance in picture perception.
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