What enhances/reduces holistic processing in perceptual expertise: Experience in writing/drawing versus component composition

Ricky Van Yip TSO, Wai Ming CHEUNG, Kit Fong Terry AU, Hui-wen Janet HSIAO

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Holistic processing (HP) can serve as a behavioral marker of expertise in face and visual object processing, though this effect can be modulated by sensorimotor experiences. For example, people with face-drawing experiences viewed faced less holistically than ordinary observers. Similarly, while beginning readers of Chinese show an increase in HP of Chinese characters, expert Chinese readers with extensive experience writing Chinese characters show reduced HP. It is suggested that writing/drawing reduced HP by allowing observers to attend to the local components of visual stimuli (i.e., facial features and Chinese character components). The present study hence examined whether experience in attending to local components through component composition training leads to a similar reduce HP effect to writing/drawing experience in object recognition by training semi-novices to recognize Chinese characters. Second-language Chinese learners with limited experience writing Chinese characters were trained to recognize new Chinese characters via reproducing them using character component stickers (similar to doing jigsaw puzzles). Other participants were randomly assigned to two control conditions in which they were taught to recognize characters through a whole-word approach or copying. We found that training through component composition enhanced both holistic processing and orthographic awareness more strongly than training approaches through whole-character recognition and character copying. In contrast, character copying reduced HP marginally. It seems, then, attending to local component structure required by this novel character reconstruction method does not suffice to reduce HP of Chinese characters—perhaps sensorimotor experience or selective attention at the stroke level is crucial in modulating HP in Chinese character recognition. Nevertheless, this component composition training method is able to facilitate developing holistic mental representations of Chinese characters among beginner learners, which seem to mark the initial stage of acquiring expertise in Chinese character recognition. Copyright © 2017 VSS.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2017



Tso, R. V.-Y., Cheung, W.-M., Au, T. K.-F., & Hsiao, J. H.-W. (2017, May). What enhances/reduces holistic processing in perceptual expertise: Experience in writing/drawing versus component composition. Paper presented at the Seveneenth Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2017), St. Pete Beach, Florida, USA.