Functional significance of stimulus orientation: Effects on orientation discrimination

Ann Stoy Ryan, Ann Schulte, Roberta L. Klatzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Children (6- and 9-year-olds) and adults were required to discriminate identical pairs of visual stimuli from mirror images. It was hypothesized that a key factor in performance would be the extent to which orientation was a functionally significant attribute of the stimuli. Two variables were manipulated, type of orientation discrimination and stimulus class. The first variable refers to the fact that the mirror images could be produced by either left/right or top/bottom reversals. Three classes of stimuli, varying in the extent to which a particular orientation was emphasized, were used: mobile objects (for which left/right orientation is assumed to be important); stationary objects (which lack comparable relevance for left/right orientation); and novel, abstract forms. The prediction was that if the discrimination task involved left/right reversals, as contrasted with top/bottom reversals, subjects would show an advantage for mobile objects, producing an interaction between stimulus class and orientation discrimination. In the first study, the subjects were children and performance was measured in terms of error rates. In the second study adults were tested, and reaction times were measured. Both studies manifested the predicted interaction. Results are discussed in terms of an information-processing framework, in which the incorporation of orientation-related features in the code representing a stimulus varies with the functional significance of the orientation to the stimulus class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-526
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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