We compared performance on three manual-dexterity tasks under monocular and binocular viewing. The tasks were the standard Morrisby Fine Dexterity Test, using forceps to manipulate the items, a modified version of the Morrisby test using fingers, and a “buzz-wire” task in which subjects had to guide a wire hoop around a 3D track without bringing the hoop into contact with the track. In all three tasks, performance was better for binocular viewing. The extent of the binocular advantage in individuals did not correlate significantly with their stereoacuity measured on the Randot test. However, the extent of the binocular advantage depended strongly on the task. It was weak when fingers were used on the Morrisby task, stronger with forceps, and extremely strong on the buzz-wire task (fivefold increase in error rate with monocular viewing). We suggest that the 3D buzz-wire game is particularly suitable for assessing binocularly based dexterity.
binocular vision; stereoscopic depth perception; visuomotor skills; dexterity; motor coordination
In this paper, we focus on how people perceive the aspect ratio of city squares. Earlier research has focused on distance perception but not so much on the perceived aspect ratio of the surrounding space. Furthermore, those studies have focused on “open” spaces rather than urban areas enclosed by walls, houses and filled with people, cars, etc. In two experiments, we therefore measured, using a direct and an indirect method, the perceived aspect ratio of five city squares in the historic city center of Delft, the Netherlands. We also evaluated whether the perceived aspect ratio of city squares was affected by the position of the observer on the square. In the first experiment, participants were asked to set the aspect ratio of a small rectangle such that it matched the perceived aspect ratio of the city square. In the second experiment, participants were asked to estimate the length and width of the city square separately. In the first experiment, we found that the perceived aspect ratio was in general lower than the physical aspect ratio. However, in the second experiment, we found that the calculated ratios were close to veridical except for the most elongated city square. We conclude therefore that the outcome depends on how the measurements are performed. Furthermore, although indirect measurements are nearly veridical, the perceived aspect ratio is an underestimation of the physical aspect ratio when measured in a direct way. Moreover, the perceived aspect ratio also depends on the location of the observer. These results may be beneficial to the design of large open urban environments, and in particular to rectangular city squares.
scene perception; vision; public spaces; city squares; space perception
We investigated the contribution of binocular disparity to the rapid recognition of scenes and simpler spatial patterns using a paradigm combining backward masked stimulus presentation and short-term match-to-sample recognition. First, we showed that binocular disparity did not contribute significantly to the recognition of briefly presented natural and artificial scenes, even when the availability of monocular cues was reduced. Subsequently, using dense random dot stereograms as stimuli, we showed that observers were in principle able to extract spatial patterns defined only by disparity under brief, masked presentations. Comparing our results with the predictions from a cue-summation model, we showed that combining disparity with luminance did not per se disrupt the processing of disparity. Our results suggest that the rapid recognition of scenes is mediated mostly by a monocular comparison of the images, although we can rely on stereo in fast pattern recognition.
stereo vision; natural image; scene recognition; random-dot stereogram; visual masking
A pair of recently published studies demonstrate that what we happen to be listening to can sometimes change our perception (or, at the very least, our rating) of what we are eating or drinking. In one recent study, North (2012) showed that the emotional attributes (or connotation) of a piece of music could influence people's perception of red or white wine. Meanwhile, Crisinel et al. (2012) reported that listening to a lower-pitched soundscape can help to emphasize the bitter notes in a bittersweet toffee while listening to a soundscape with a higher pitch tends to bring out its sweetness. Although the most appropriate psychological and neuroscientific explanations for such crossmodal effects are still uncertain, we outline a number of possible alternatives for such intriguing, not to mention surprising, phenomena.
music; flavour; taste; crossmodal correspondences; crossmodal effects
When a short straight line segment moves across a zigzag line and is viewed in one's peripheral vision, it appears to exhibit nonrigid squirming motion (the squirm effect). This phenomenon demonstrates that the form, orientation, and motion direction of a short line are influenced by those of a longer one when they are viewed in one's peripheral vision.
motion illusion; motion streak; line orientation; motion direction; corner detection; assimilation
The spatiochromatic properties of the red–green dimension of human colour vision appear to be optimized for picking fruit in leaves at about arms' reach. However, other evidence suggests that the task of spotting fruit from a distance might be more important. This discrepancy may arise because the task a system (e.g. human trichromacy) is best at is not necessarily the same task where the largest advantage occurs over the evolutionary alternatives (dichromacy or anomalous trichromacy). We tested human dichromats, anomalous trichromats and “normal” trichromats in a naturalistic visual search task in which they had to find fruit pieces in a bush at 1, 4, 8 or 12 m viewing distance. We found that the largest advantage (in terms of either performance ratio or performance difference) of normal trichromacy over both types of colour deficiency was for the largest viewing distance. We infer that in the evolution of human colour vision, spotting fruit from a distance was a more important selective advantage than picking fruit at arms' reach.
colour blind; evolution; primate; trichromacy; polymorphism; visual search
Pellicano and Burr (2012) argue that a Bayesian framework can help us understand the perceptual peculiarities in autism. We agree, but we think that their assumption of uniformly flat or equivocal priors in autism is not empirically supported. Moreover, we argue that any full account has to take into consideration not only the nature of priors in autism, but also how these priors are constructed or learned. We argue that predictive coding provides a more constrained framework that very naturally explains how priors are constructed in autism leading to strong, but overfitted, and non-generalizable predictions.
autism; vision; perception; predictive coding; priors; Bayes
In everyday scenes, the illuminant can vary spatially in chromaticity and luminance, and change over time (e.g. sunset). Such variation generates dramatic image effects too complex for any contemporary machine vision system to overcome, yet human observers are remarkably successful at inferring object properties separately from lighting, an ability linked with estimation and tracking of light field parameters. Which information does the visual system use to infer light field dynamics? Here, we specifically ask whether color contributes to inferred light source motion. Observers viewed 3D surfaces illuminated by an out-of-view moving collimated source (sun) and a diffuse source (sky). In half of the trials, the two sources differed in chromaticity, thereby providing more information about motion direction. Observers discriminated light motion direction above chance, and only the least sensitive observer benefited slightly from the added color information, suggesting that color plays only a very minor role for inferring light field dynamics.
color constancy; material perception; illumination perception; 3D perception; scene understanding; motion perception
When two images, one depicting colored disks and the other depicting colored windmill patterns, are displayed in succession, the color of the windmills is perceptually replaced by black. The illusion is striking. Experiments confirmed (1) that the luminance contrast between the target patterns and the background must be large and (2) that the disks and windmills must be static on the retina and in register. The illusion is weakened when the windmills and disks have different colors.
optical illusion; desaturation; color vision
There is a current debate concerning whether people's physiological or behavioral potential alters their perception of slanted surfaces. One way to directly test this is to physiologically change people's potential by lowering their blood sugar and comparing their estimates of slant to those with normal blood sugar. In the first investigation of this (Schnall, Zadra, & Proffitt, 2010), it was shown that people with low blood sugar gave higher estimates of slanted surfaces than people with normal blood sugar. The question that arises is whether these higher estimates are due to lower blood sugar, per se, or experimental demand created by other aspects of the experiment. Here evidence was collected from 120 observers showing that directly manipulating physiological potential, while controlling for experimental demand effects, does not alter the perception of slant. Indeed, when experimental demand went against behavioral potential, it produced judgmental biases opposite to those predicted by behavioral potential in the low blood sugar condition. It is suggested that low blood sugar only affects slant judgments by making participants more susceptible to judgmental biases.
geographic slant perception; blood sugar; experimental demand characteristics
Visual discomfort has been reported for certain visual stimuli and under particular viewing conditions, such as stereoscopic viewing. In stereoscopic viewing, visual discomfort can be caused by a conflict between accommodation and convergence cues that may specify different distances in depth. Earlier research has shown that depth-of-field, which is the distance range in depth in the scene that is perceived to be sharp, influences both the perception of egocentric distance to the focal plane, and the distance range in depth between objects in the scene. Because depth-of-field may also be in conflict with convergence and the accommodative state of the eyes, we raised the question of whether depth-of-field affects discomfort when viewing stereoscopic photographs. The first experiment assessed whether discomfort increases when depth-of-field is in conflict with coherent accommodation–convergence cues to distance in depth. The second experiment assessed whether depth-of-field influences discomfort from a pre-existing accommodation–convergence conflict. Results showed no effect of depth-of-field on visual discomfort. These results suggest therefore that depth-of-field can be used as a cue to depth without inducing discomfort in the viewer, even when cue conflicts are large.
depth-of-field; visual discomfort; natural images; blur
Many factors influence physical attractiveness, including degree of symmetry and relative length of legs. We asked a sample of 112 young adults to rate the attractiveness of computer-generated female bodies that varied in terms of symmetry and leg-to-body ratio. These effects were confirmed. However, we also varied whether the person in the image was shown sitting or standing. Half of the participants were tested standing and the other half sitting. The difference in the posture of the participants increased the perceived attractiveness of the images sharing the same posture, despite the fact that participants were unaware that their posture was relevant for the experiment. We conclude that our findings extend the role of embodied simulation in social cognition to perception of attractiveness from static images.
attractiveness; mimicry; embodied simulation; symmetry; leg-to-body ratio
The brain can retain speed information in early visual short-term memory in an astonishingly precise manner. We investigated whether this (early) visual memory system is active during the extrapolation of occluded motion and whether it reflects speed misperception due to contrast and size. Experiments 1A and 2A showed that reducing target contrast or increasing its size led to an illusory speed underestimation. Experiments 1B, 2B, and 3 showed that this illusory phenomenon is reflected in the memory of speed during occluded motion, independent of the range of visible speeds, of the length of the visible trajectory or the invisible trajectory, and of the type of task. These results suggest that illusory speed is retained in memory during invisible motion.
motion extrapolation; TTC; contrast; size; remembered speed
The “zograscope” is a “visual aid” (commonly known as “optical machine” in the 18th century) invented in the mid-18th century, and in general use until the early 20th century. It was intended to view single pictures (thus not stereographic pairs) with both eyes. The optics approximately eliminates the physiological cues (binocular disparity, vergence, accommodation, movement parallax, and image blur) that might indicate the flatness of the picture surface. The spatial structure of pictorial space is due to the remaining pictorial cues. As a consequence, many (or perhaps most) observers are aware of a heightened “plasticity” of the pictorial content for zograscopic as compared with natural viewing. We discuss the optics of the zograscope in some detail. Such an analysis is not available in the literature, whereas common “explanations” of the apparatus are evidently nonsensical. We constructed a zograscope, using modern parts, and present psychophysical data on its performance.
zograscope; viewboxes; monocular stereopsis; plasticity; psycho-optics; synoptic viewing
Choice blindness is the failure to notice a mismatch between intention and outcome when making decisions. It is unknown whether choice blindness occurs when participants have extended interaction with real objects. Here, we examined the case when objects could be touched but not seen. Participants examined pairs of common, everyday objects inside a specially constructed box where a silent turntable was used to switch objects between initial choice and later justification. For similar pairs of objects, we found detection rates of around 22%, consistent with previous studies of choice blindness. For pairs consisting of more distinctive exemplars, the detection rate rose to 70%. Our results indicate that choice blindness does occur after haptic interaction with real objects, but is strongly modulated by similarity.
choice blindness; haptic object recognition; decision-making; touch; similarity
Visual perception begins by dissecting the retinal image into millions of small patches for local analyses by local receptive fields. However, image structures extend well beyond these receptive fields and so further processes must be involved in sewing the image fragments back together to derive representations of higher order (more global) structures. To investigate the integration process, we also need to understand the opposite process of suppression. To investigate both processes together, we measured triplets of dipper functions for targets and pedestals involving interdigitated stimulus pairs (A, B). Previous work has shown that summation and suppression operate over the full contrast range for the domains of ocularity and space. Here, we extend that work to include orientation and time domains. Temporal stimuli were 15-Hz counter-phase sine-wave gratings, where A and B were the positive and negative phases of the oscillation, respectively. For orientation, we used orthogonally oriented contrast patches (A, B) whose sum was an isotropic difference of Gaussians. Results from all four domains could be understood within a common framework in which summation operates separately within the numerator and denominator of a contrast gain control equation. This simple arrangement of summation and counter-suppression achieves integration of various stimulus attributes without distorting the underlying contrast code.
vision; masking; dipper function; contrast integration; spatial; temporal; binocular; orientation
The visual system dissects the retinal image into millions of local analyses along numerous visual dimensions. However, our perceptions of the world are not fragmentary, so further processes must be involved in stitching it all back together. Simply summing up the responses would not work because this would convey an increase in image contrast with an increase in the number of mechanisms stimulated. Here, we consider a generic model of signal combination and counter-suppression designed to address this problem. The model is derived and tested for simple stimulus pairings (e.g. A + B), but is readily extended over multiple analysers. The model can account for nonlinear contrast transduction, dilution masking, and signal combination at threshold and above. It also predicts nonmonotonic psychometric functions where sensitivity to signal A in the presence of pedestal B first declines with increasing signal strength (paradoxically dropping below 50% correct in two-interval forced choice), but then rises back up again, producing a contour that follows the wings and neck of a swan. We looked for and found these “swan” functions in four different stimulus dimensions (ocularity, space, orientation, and time), providing some support for our proposal.
dilution masking; suppression; summation; binocular; spatiotemporal vision; orientation
We investigated the role of spatial arrangement of texture elements in three psychophysical experiments on texture discrimination and texture segregation. In our stimuli, oriented Gabor elements formed an iso-oriented and a randomly oriented texture region. We manipulated (1) the orientation similarity in the iso-oriented region by adding orientation jitter to the orientation of each Gabor; (2) the spatial arrangement of the Gabors: quasi-random or regular; and (3) the shape of the edge between the two texture regions: straight or curved. In Experiment 1, participants discriminated an iso-oriented stimulus from a stimulus with only randomly oriented elements. Experiment 2 required texture segregation to judge the shape of the texture edge. Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2 with Gabors of a smaller spatial extent in a denser arrangement. We found comparable performance levels with regular and quasi-random Gabor positions in the discrimination task but not in the segregation tasks. We conclude that spatial arrangement plays a role in a texture segregation task requiring shape discrimination of the texture edge but not in a texture discrimination task in which it is sufficient to discriminate an iso-oriented region from a completely random region.
perceptual grouping; perceptual organization; texture perception; Gabor arrays; collinearity
Previous research has shown that perceived facial valence is biased toward background valence. Here, we examine whether background dominance also affects perceived facial dominance. In particular, we hypothesized that downward-pointing triangles, which are known to convey threat, would affect perceived facial dominance. Participants judged perceived facial dominance of neutral faces presented overlaid on downward- or upward-pointing background triangles. Our results show that neutral faces are indeed judged more dominant when seen with a downward-pointing triangle in the background. The fact that simple geometric background shapes can affect facial judgments may have important implications for the design and experience of our daily environment and multimedia content.
facial dominance; triangles; facial expression; facial affect
In two experiments, we explored whether compositions made up of two or three rectangles received high aesthetics ratings when the composition was equilibrated, that is, when the center of mass of the weights represented by the areas of the rectangles were in the center of the composition. We supposed that equilibrated stimuli might be appreciated as much as symmetric stimuli. We further wanted to find out whether aesthetics ratings, balance ratings, and weight ratings differ from each other, and which stimulus characteristics influence each rating. We observed that the position of the center of mass of the compositions influenced the aesthetics ratings only slightly whereas it influenced the weight ratings more strongly. In contrast with this, the variation of the overall shape of the rectangles making up the compositions influenced the aesthetics ratings more strongly than the weight ratings. At first sight, balance ratings appeared intermediate between the aesthetics ratings and the weight ratings. However, when we varied the area ratio of the rectangles making up the composition, we observed that the balance ratings were independent of the two other ratings.
aesthetics; composition; equilibrium; balance; symmetry; weight; ratings; visual perception
Neurophysiological measurement techniques like fMRI and TMS are increasingly being used to examine the perceptual-motor processes underpinning the ability to anticipate the actions of others. Crucially, these techniques invariably restrict the experimental task that can be used and consequently limit the degree to which the findings can be generalised. These limitations are discussed based on a recent paper by Tomeo et al. (2012) who sought to examine responses to fooling actions by using TMS on participants who passively observed spliced video clips where bodily information was, and was not, linked to the action outcome. We outline two particular concerns with this approach. First, spliced video clips that show physically impossible actions are unlikely to simulate a “fooling” action. Second, it is difficult to make meaningful inferences about perceptual-motor expertise from experiments where participants cannot move. Taken together, we argue that wider generalisations based on these findings may provide a misunderstanding of the phenomenon such a study is designed to explore.
anticipation; transcranial magnetic stimulation; motor; action; vision; football
Recent research addresses the question whether motion information of multiple objects contributes to maintaining a selection of objects across a period of motion. Here, we investigate whether target and/or distractor motion information is used during attentive tracking. We asked participants to track four objects and changed either the motion direction of targets, the motion direction of distractors, neither, or both during a brief flash in the middle of a tracking interval. We observed that a single direction change of targets is sufficient to impair tracking performance. In contrast, changing the motion direction of distractors had no effect on performance. This indicates that target- but not distractor motion information is evaluated during tracking.
multiple object tracking (MOT); motion direction; target motion; distractor motion
SFS (Shape From Shading) theory is based upon the Lambertian paradigm. Our visual demonstrations imply that this paradigm fails to apply to the conventional stimuli used to probe vision.
shading; shape; surface; luminance gradient; outline
We studied the neural coding of facial attractiveness by investigating effects of adaptation to attractive and unattractive human faces on the perceived attractiveness of veridical human face pictures (Experiment 1) and art portraits (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 revealed a clear pattern of contrastive aftereffects. Relative to a pre-adaptation baseline, the perceived attractiveness of faces was increased after adaptation to unattractive faces, and was decreased after adaptation to attractive faces. Experiment 2 revealed similar aftereffects when art portraits rather than face photographs were used as adaptors and test stimuli, suggesting that effects of adaptation to attractiveness are not restricted to facial photographs. Additionally, we found similar aftereffects in art portraits for beauty, another aesthetic feature that, unlike attractiveness, relates to the properties of the image (rather than to the face displayed). Importantly, Experiment 3 showed that aftereffects were abolished when adaptors were art portraits and face photographs were test stimuli. These results suggest that adaptation to facial attractiveness elicits aftereffects in the perception of subsequently presented faces, for both face photographs and art portraits, and that these effects do not cross image domains.
face perception; attractiveness; adaptation; art perception; aesthetics; beauty
In the well-known gamut expansion effect, uniformly coloured target patches are perceived as more colourful when they are embedded in a uniform grey surround than when they are embedded in a variegated one. Here, we provide a demonstration showing that this effect can be inverted when the uniformly coloured target patches are replaced by variegated ones. This observation suggests that the gamut expansion effect is due to mechanisms of transparency perception rather than due to contrast adaptation.
simultaneous colour contrast; gamut expansion effect; perceptual transparency; colour scission; perceptual organization