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Hypercoherence; an investigation into the influence of Gestalt Principles on the processing of textual information

By Inge Janse


The primary aim of this thesis is to see how the Gestalt theory can be used to broaden the domain of coherence analysis. Primary research regarding coherence analysis focused specifically on language alone. In order to see if this domain of analysis can be expanded, it was investigated how Gestalt grouping principles can be applied to help indicating relations between information elements on websites. Based on the analysis of various municipality websites, it turned out to be the case that Gestalt principles and existing sets of coherence relations (such as from the Rhetorical Structure Theory and the theory of Cognitive Primitives) do work in the same area and cover their own exclusive regions. The Gestalt principles indicate which items should be grouped, whereas the sets of coherence relations are able to define the nature of these relations. Three experiments were then performed to see how Gestalt principles and sets of coherence relations exactly interact. The first experiment indicated that ‘superficial’ information such as visual or content emphasis can change the processor’s perceived interest for an item. The other two experiments focused on how this superficial information influenced the accessibility and grouping of information. Both experiments required more thorough processing of the information and showed that the influence of superficial information in this context was absent. It is therefore concluded that the initial appearance of information (both via appearance as via content) can steer the processor into a certain direction of understanding, but that the final representation can still be changed if the actual meaning of the items and their mutual relations does not correspond to the proposed meaning or grouping via the appearance. On the basis of this conclusion, practical and theoretical implications are provided and suggestions for future work are proposed

Topics: Letteren, Coherence, Gestalt principles, Text processing, Hypertext, Mental representation
Year: 2006
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