The mutual influence of stimulus complexity and chunk tightness on perceptual restructuring was examined using a chunk decomposition task (CDT). Participants attempted to remove components of Chinese characters in order to produce new, valid characters. Participants had their electroencephalogram recorded while completing a CDT in conditions of low or high stimulus complexity, crossed with two levels of chunk tightness. Tight chunks overlapped spatially whereas loose chunks did not. Both increasing chunk tightness and increasing stimulus complexity impaired performance (lower accuracy, longer reaction times), and these factors interacted such that highly complex, tight chunks produced the worst performance. These factors also had interacting effects on the late positive complex (LPC). The LPC amplitude was reduced by increasing chunk tightness, but this effect was attenuated for highly complex stimuli. These results suggest that though chunk tightness and stimulus complexity impair performance in the CDT, they have dissociable neural underpinnings.
Zhonglu Zhang, Christopher M. Warren, Yi Lei, Qiang Xing, Hong Li, Stimulus complexity and chunk tightness interact to impede perceptual restructuring during problem solving, Biological Psychology, Vol. 155, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2020.107930.