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The nine-dot problem: Beyond perceptual organization


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.


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Burnham, C.A., Davis, K.G. The nine-dot problem: Beyond perceptual organization. Psychon Sci 17, 321–323 (1969).

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  • Test Item
  • Perceptual Organization
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