(a) display involving a conflict between proximity and similarity; (b) display with a conflict between shape and colour; (c) a different display with a conflict between shape and colour. All adapted from Quinlan and Wilton (1998).

shown in Figure 2.5a, in which there is a conflict between proximity and similarity. About half the participants grouped the stimuli by proximity and half by similarity. Quinlan and Wilton also used more complex displays like those in Figure 2.5b and 2.5c. Their findings led them to propose the following notions:

• The visual elements in a display are initially grouped or clustered on the basis of proximity.

• Additional processes are used if elements that have provisionally been clustered together differ in one or more features (within-cluster mismatch).

• If there is a within-cluster mismatch on features but a between-cluster match, e.g., Figure 2.5a, then participants choose between grouping based on proximity or on similarity.

• If there are within-cluster and between-cluster mismatches, then proximity is ignored, and grouping is often based on colour. In the case of the displays shown in Figure 2.5b and 2.5c, most participants grouped on the basis of common colour rather than common shape.

Quinlan and Wilton (1998) have made an interesting contribution. However, what remains to be done is to provide a detailed theoretical account of the processes involved when conflicts between laws of grouping need to be resolved.

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