Developmental change in perception of asymmetry

Joan Cecilia Nevins Mulligan, Fordham University


The present study was designed to examine the contrast model (Tversky, 1977) from a developmental perspective. The contrast model presents similarity as a feature matching process in which features of stimuli are weighted by inherent salience, diagnostic or contextual salience and the demands and direction of the similarity task. Tversky introduced the contrast model as an alternative to the geometric model which has for a long time been the traditional model for the representation of psychological similarity. Tversky found support for his model in Rosch's (1975) work with prototypes. In order to consider the model from a developmental perspective, 173 subjects were tested at each of four levels, kindergarten, second grade, fifth grade and college. Subjects were required to perform three tasks, a color task reminiscent of Rosch's (1975) study of prototypes, and matching and group tasks with schematic faces developed by Tversky. It had been expected that older subjects, operationally defined as fifth graders and college students, would be sensitive to the asymmetry of similarity judgments as proposed by the contrast model. It had also been predicted that older subjects would be sensitive to changes in the salience of features which occur when changes take place in the context or feature set. This concept of contextual salience is also an aspect of the contrast model. The color tasks failed to yield significant results. Data followed no systematic or interpretable pattern. Results for the matching and grouping tasks proved to be task dependent. The matching task did not yield significant results in the expected direction. In the grouping task, however, results at all developmental levels were significant. Analysis of the results points to problems with the design in the color tasks and with stimuli in the matching and grouping tasks. Further research is suggested with more complex stimuli and subjects from a broader range of age levels.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Mulligan, Joan Cecilia Nevins, "Developmental change in perception of asymmetry" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918639.