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      A novel approach to investigate recursion and iteration in visual hierarchical processing.

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          Abstract

          We describe a new method to explore recursive cognition in the visual domain. We define recursion as the ability to represent multiple hierarchical levels using the same rule, entailing the ability to generate new levels beyond those previously encountered. With this definition recursion can be distinguished from general hierarchical embedding. To investigate this recursion/hierarchy distinction in the visual domain, we developed two novel methods: The Visual Recursion Task (VRT), in which an inferred rule is used to represent new hierarchical levels, and the Embedded Iteration Task (EIT), in which additional elements are added to an existing hierarchical level. We found that adult humans can represent recursion in the visuo-spatial domain, and that this ability is distinct from both general intelligence and the ability to represent iterative processes embedded within hierarchical structures. Compared with embedded iteration, visual recursion correlated positively with other recursive planning tasks (Tower of Hanoi), but not with specific visuo-spatial resources (spatial short-term memory and working memory). We conclude that humans are able to use recursive representations to process complex visuo-spatial hierarchies and that our visual recursion task taps into specific cognitive resources. This method opens exciting opportunities to explore the relationship between visual recursion and language.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Behav Res Methods
          Behavior research methods
          Springer Nature
          1554-3528
          1554-351X
          Dec 2016
          : 48
          : 4
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090, Vienna, Austria. diasmarm@hu-berlin.de.
          [2 ] Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Luisenstrasse 56, 10117, Berlin, Germany. diasmarm@hu-berlin.de.
          [3 ] Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstrasse 1a, 04103, Leipzig, Germany. diasmarm@hu-berlin.de.
          [4 ] Language Research Laboratory, Lisbon Faculty of Medicine, Av. Professor Egas Moniz, 1649-028, Lisbon, Portugal.
          [5 ] Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090, Vienna, Austria.
          Article
          10.3758/s13428-015-0657-1
          10.3758/s13428-015-0657-1
          26487047

          Vision, Cognition, Fractals, Iteration, Recursion, Representation

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