Psychonomic Science

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 321–323 | Cite as

The nine-dot problem: Beyond perceptual organization

  • Clarke A. Burnham
  • Kenneth G. Davis
Perception & Performance Senses


A dozen versions of the nine-dot problem were individually administered. Instructions stating that S could extend his lines beyond the boundary of the square formed by the nine dots were marginally effective in increasing the number of Ss who solved the problem in a 10-min period. Presenting two extra dots outside the square dramatically increased the number of solvers. It was concluded that perceptual organization, seeing the dots as a confining square, is a minor factor in making the problem a difficult one. The source of the difficulty is, instead, the fact that the sequence of lines involved in the solution is nonobvious.


Test Item Perceptual Organization Direct Solution College Freshman Habit Strength 
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  1. KENDLER, H. H. Basic psychology. (2nd ed.) New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1968.Google Scholar
  2. KRECH, D., CRUTCHFIELD, R. S., & LIVSON, N. Elements of psychology. New York: Knopf, 1969.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Journals, Inc. 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clarke A. Burnham
    • 1
  • Kenneth G. Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TexasAustinUSA

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