The Effects of Perceptual Grouping and Category Boundary Salience on Location Memory


The type of information used to process spatial layouts was assessed by observing the effect of spatial category salience and perceptual grouping (a non-spatial category), on a location memory task. Participants (N = 64) learnt the pairings between twenty objects and twenty marked locations within a “house”. They then placed the objects in the remembered locations, without the aid of location markers. Spatial category salience was manipulated by presenting the house as an open space (no boundary condition) or by dividing the space into quadrants (boundary condition). Perceptual grouping was manipulated by using identical shapes (control condition) or sets of shapes which identified triads of objects (perceptual grouping condition). Both non-spatial and spatial categories improved location memory accuracy. The non- spatial category produced a prototype effect and the spatial category produced a subdivision effect. Different patterns of category dominance (spatial vs. non-spatial) were observed for level of accuracy compared to distortion effects.

Share and Cite:

Farran, E. , Connell, S. & Pharwaha, B. (2012). The Effects of Perceptual Grouping and Category Boundary Salience on Location Memory. Psychology, 3, 953-958. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.311143.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Coren, S., & Girgus, J. S. (1980). Principles of perceptual organization and spatial distortion—The Gestalt illusions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 6, 404-412. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.6.3.404
[2] Fitting, S., Wedell, D. H., & Allen, G. L. (2005). Memory for spatial location: Influences of environmental cues and task field rotation. In A. G. Cohn, & D. M. Mark (Eds.), Spatial information theory: International Conference (pp. 459-474). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.F
[3] Hirtle, S. C., & Kallman, H. J. (1988). Memory for the locations of pictures: Evidence for hierarchical clustering. American Journal of Psychology, 101, 159-170. doi:10.2307/1422832
[4] Hommel, B., Gehrke, J., & Knuf, L. (2000). Hierarchical coding in the perception and memory of spatial layouts. Psychological Research, 64, 1-10. doi:10.1007/s004260000032
[5] Hund, A. M., & Plumert, J. M. (2003). Does Information about what things are influence children’s memory for where things are? Developmental Psychology, 39, 939-948. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.39.6.939
[6] Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. V., & Duncan, S. (1991). Categories and particulars: Prototype effects in estimating spatial location. Psychological Review, 98, 352-376. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.98.3.352
[7] Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. V., & Vevea, J. L. (2000). Why do categories affect stimulus judgement? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 220-241. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.129.2.220
[8] Newcombe, N. S., Huttenlocher, J., Drummery, A. B., & Wiley, J. G. (1998). The development of spatial location coding: Place learning and dead reckoning in the second and third years. Cognitive Development, 13, 185-200. doi:10.1016/S0885-2014(98)90038-7
[9] Plumert, J. M., & Hund, A. M., (2001) The development of memory for locations: What role do spatial prototypes play? Child development, 72, 370-384. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00284
[10] Sadalla, E. K., Burroughs, W. J., & Staplin, L. J. (1980). Reference points in spatial cognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 6, 516-528. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.6.5.516
[11] Schmidt, T., Werner, S., & Diedrichsen, J. (2003). Spatial distortions induced by multiple visual landmarks: How local distortions combine to produce complex distortion patterns. Perception and Psychophysics, 65, 861-873. doi:10.3758/BF03194820
[12] Treisman, A. (1982). Perceptual grouping and attention in visual search for features and for objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8, 194-214. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.8.2.194
[13] Verbeek, E., & Spetch, M. (2008). Distortions in location memory. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 15, 328-336. doi:10.3758/PBR.15.2.328
[14] Wertheimer, M. (1923). First published as Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt II. Psycologische Forschung, 4, 301-350.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.