A Behaviorist Looks at Form Recognition by William R. Uttal

By William R. Uttal

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Representation involves a comparison between the model object and its image. (p. 82) This discourse, although poetic, lucid, and interesting, is also totally useless in helping us manipulate form as an experimental variable. In recent years there have been continued efforts to develop nomenclature systems thatcan specifically define a unique form. But the problem remains refractory. Zusne (1970), referred to the influence on psychophysical responses of "variables of the distal stimulus": He proposed the following interim definition: [Florm may be considered both aone-dimensional emergent of its physical dimensions and a multidimensional variable.

It is this universal overall propertyanalogous to the Platonic and Aristotelian form-that ties them together within the confines of a single rubric. His assertion that form persists indefinitely both before and after the life time of the object5must be considered asomewhat extreme, andfrom the point of view of a contemporaryphysicalist materialism, an unsatisfactory part of the defi'The form of an object can be preserved in some other medium (a drawing or a story) but the notion of an independent existence of a form without some instantiating medium is what was being proposed here.

92)8 Peter Dodwell (1970), a psychologist, offers the following highly specialized and, to me, equally unsatisfactory definition of form (pattern): By a visual pattern I shall mean a collection of contours or edges, which in turn are defined as region of sharp change in the level of a physical property of light (usually intensity impinging on the retina. (p. 2) The problem with this definition, as noted earlier, is the linkage Dodwell makes between the aggregate organization (what he refers t o as pattern) and the specialized contour attributes.

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