Contributions of Automatic and Controlled Processes to the Analysis of Hierarchical Structure

Document Type



Published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, volume 26, issue 1, 2000. Bryant users may access this article here.


American Psychological Association

Publication Source

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance


Three experiments provide evidence that 2 mechanisms, 1 automatic and 1 controlled, produce variations in the efficiency with which local and global forms are processed. Targets are identified faster if they appear at the same level (global or local) as the target on the previous trial. M. R. Lamb, B. London, H. M. Pond, and K. A. Whitt (see record 1997-39043-003) provided evidence that the beneficial effect of level repetition is due to an automatic process that is outside voluntary control. In the present experiments, pretrial cues informed participants as to the level of the upcoming target. Valid cues benefited performance, whereas invalid cues harmed performance relative to noninformative neutral cues. This was so even when the relation between the cue and the level it signaled was arbitrary, indicating that the cues initiated voluntary shifts of attention. The benefit associated with level repetition, however, was unaffected by the cues. These data suggest that the benefit of level repetition results from a process that is not subject to voluntary control.