ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (5): 517-522.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00517

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Effect of Earthquake Experience on the Perceptual Interference with Unfilled Intervals in Chinese Characters

YANG Xinyue;WANG Quanhong;LU Qilin   

  1. (1 School of Psychology, Southwest University, Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, MoE, Chongqing 400715, China) (2 SanQuan College of Xinxiang Medical University, Xinxiang 453003, China)
  • Received:2010-04-30 Published:2013-05-25 Online:2013-05-25
  • Contact: WANG Quanhong

Abstract: The perceptual interference effect states that a moderately degraded stimulus is less readily identified when depicted in a sequence of exposures from a highly degraded form than when presented all at once (standard condition). Thirty-two middle-school students from Mianzhu City (an earthquake-prone area), Sichuan province, China, were selected as major (experimental) participants, while thirty-two middle-school students from Beibei, Chongqing were chosen as control participants. This study, which consisted of two experiments (major and control), explored the effect of earthquake experience on the identification of Chinese characters with a paradigm of perceptual interference with unfilled interval (blank screen between exposures). The participants in each experiment were required to identify fragmented target characters in eight conditions by typing down the identity of each target. These conditions resulted from a within-participant design of 2 (material conditions: earthquake-related and unrelated characters) × 4 (presentation conditions, namely, three incremental conditions with interval durations of 0, 450, 900 ms, and the standard condition). These two experiments were combined into a dummy experiment of a mixed design for further analyses. Repeated measures analyses of variance were first conducted on percentages of the correct completion of target fragments. The major experiment indicated a significant difference in the performance between material conditions. The interference effect remained for earthquake-related characters in the critical 450 ms condition, while the effect for the unrelated characters disappeared. By contrast, the control experiment showed no difference in performance between material conditions. More critically, the results found no difference in the identification of the unrelated characters (i.e., recognition ability) between the control and major participants, yet the interference effect disappeared even for the earthquake-related characters in the 450 ms condition among the control participants. Based on these results, the identification performance of the participants with earthquake experience was higher on earthquake-related characters than the unrelated characters, and the perceptual interference for “normal” (unrelated) characters disappeared on the duration of 450 ms. However, the interference for the earthquake-related characters remained. The notion of persistent activation of representation cross unfilled intervals in the competitive activation model could explain why sometimes the interference occurred at the interval of 450 ms, and why sometimes it disappeared. The present study also supported the view that emotion (such as fear) drives perceptual processing.

Key words: Wenchuan earthquake, Chinese character identification, perceptual interference effect, unfilled interval