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Sensation and Perception: Garner 1970
Garner, W.R. (1970). Good patterns have few alternatives. American Scientist, 58, 34-42.PDF
This experiment asks participants to rate particular patterns. The general result that is expected is that patterns which are the same reflected or rotated will be perceived as "better" than those which are, for instance, different when they are rotated 90 degrees.

The study is an application of the Information Theory concept of Redundancy to classical Gestalt Psychology views of shape. In dot patterns, Garner defined redundant patterns to be those that produced the same pattern when reflected or rotated. Additionally, those patterns which produced fewer new patterns when reflected or rotated (and thus were more redundant) were rated as better.

Participants rate the patterns on a scale of 1-9, and those ratings are compared with objective ratings based on the number of rotation/reflection images. For instance, a pattern with no difference between reflected/rotated images would be best, while one with 7 alternative patterns would be worst.

1 pattern
4 patterns
8 patterns

Clement, D.E. (1964). Uncertainty and latency of verbal naming responses as correlates of pattern goodness. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 3:150-157.

Garner, W.R. (1962). Uncertainty and structure as psychological concepts. New York: Wiley.

Garner, W.R. (1966). To perceive is to know. American Psychologist 21:11-19.

Garner, W.R., and D.E. Clement (1963). Goodness of pattern and pattern uncertainty. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 2:446-452.

Garner, W.R., and R.L. Gottwald (1968). The perception and learning of temporal patterns. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 20:97-109,.

Handel, S., and W.R. Garner (1966). The structure of visual pattern associates and pattern goodness. Perception and Psychophysics 1: 33-38.

Royer, F.L., and W.R. Garner (1966). Response uncertainty and perceptual difficulty of auditory temporal patterns. Perception and Psychophysics 1:41-47.


Broadbent (1956) reports that two lists of digits, each presented to one ear separately so that the items in the two series coincide in time, are grouped together according to the ear-of-arrival, and that these two lists are accordingly recalled separately, one after the other.  To ascertain whether such a tendency reflected some built-in mechanism or whether it was due to an optional tactic, adopted through success in making sense of message sequences in other situations, an experiment was designed in which a meaningful message would emerge for the subject if the ear-of-arrival cue was ignored.  In this experiment, words broken up into syllables, and phrases broken up into their monosyllabic constituent words were presented to the subject, with the constituents alternating between the two ears.  At the same time lists of digits were presented to whichever ear was unoccupied.  The results show that recall by meaning rather than by ear-of-arrival, when these are in conflict, can occur and is no less efficient. 

Compare average participant ratings among the three groups (1, 4, and 8 alternatives).


Brian MacWhinney