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Global perceptual processing in problem solving: The case of the traveling salesperson.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1999
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Journal number6
Volume61
Number of pages12
Pages1227-1238
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The traveling salesperson problem (TSP) consists of finding the shortest tour around a set of locations and is an important task in computer science and operations research. In four experiments, the relationship between processes implicated in the recognition of good figures and the identification of TSP solutions was investigated. In Experiment 1, a linear relationship was found between participants’ judgments of good figure and the optimality of solutions to TSPs. In Experiment 2, identification performance was shown to be a function of solution optimality and problem orientation. Experiment 3 replicated these findings with a forced-pace method, suggesting that global processing, rather than a local processing strategy involving point-by-point analysis of TSP solutions, is the primary process involved in the derivation of best figures for the presented TSPs. In Experiment 4, the role of global precedence was confirmed using a priming method, in which it was found that short (100 msec) primes facilitated solution identification, relative to no prime or longer primes. Effects of problem type were found in all the experiments, suggesting that local features of some problems may disrupt global processing. The results are discussed in terms of Sanocki’s (1993) global-to-local contingency model. We argue that global perceptual processing may contribute more generally to problem solving and that human performance can complement computational TSP methods.