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Iperception. 2011 May; 2(4): 346.
Published online 2011 May 1. doi:  10.1068/ic346
PMCID: PMC5393708

Holistic Processing of Chinese Characters

Abstract

Enhanced holistic processing (obligatory attention to all parts of an object) has been associated with different types of perceptual expertise involving faces, cars, fingerprints, musical notes, English words, etc. Curiously Chinese characters are regarded as an exception, as indicated by the lack of holistic processing found for experts (Hsiao and Cottrell, 2009). The ceiling performance of experts, however, may have caused this null effect. We revisit this issue by adopting the often-used face-composite sequential-matching task to two-part Chinese characters. Participants matched the target halves (left or right) of two characters while ignoring the irrelevant halves. Both Chinese readers (experts) and non-Chinese readers (novices) showed holistic processing. Follow-up experiments suggested different origins of the effects for the two groups. For experts, holistic processing was sensitive to the amount of experience with the characters, as it was larger for words than non-words (formed by swapping the two parts of a valid character). Novices, however, showed similar degree of holistic processing to words and non-words, suggesting that their effects were more related to their inefficient decomposition of a complex, character-like pattern into parts. Overall these findings suggest that holistic processing may be a marker of expertise with Chinese characters, contrary to previous claims.


Articles from i-Perception are provided here courtesy of SAGE Publications