Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Shaun P. Vecera

First Committee Member

Cathleen M Moore

Second Committee Member

John P Spencer

Third Committee Member

Eliot Hazeltine

Fourth Committee Member

Warren G Darling


Research on figure-ground organization focused primarily on identifying cues that are used to establish regions as figure or ground. Recently, others have demonstrated behavioral consequences of figure-ground assignment, including speeded responses and higher accuracy for figures. However, other outcomes of figure-ground assignment have been demonstrated. For example, figures' spatial resolution is enhanced for figures relative to grounds. Still, the consequences of figure-ground assignment can extend beyond spatial processing to other domains, including temporal processing.

To investigate the consequences of figure-ground assignment for temporal processing, I first examined whether targets could be perceived as appearing temporally earlier on figures than on grounds (i.e., prior entry effect). My results suggest that figural regions are available to perceptual level processes sooner than grounds. Upon confirming a prior-entry-like effect for figures, I then examined other temporal processing differences between figures and grounds. Specifically, I demonstrated that targets presented on figures are perceived as offsetting later than targets appearing on grounds, suggesting that figures receive extended perceptual level processing relative to grounds. Consequently, I found that extended processing of figures degrades temporal resolution compared to ground regions. Finally, I presented a computational model that captures the temporal processing effects of figure-ground assignment, demonstrating that these effects can arise from a single architecture.


x, 116 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 111-116).


Copyright 2009 Lauren Nicole Hecht

Included in

Psychology Commons