The shape of a hole and that of the surface-with-hole cannot be analyzed separately

Bertamini, Marco; Helmy, Mai
August 2012
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review;Aug2012, Vol. 19 Issue 4, p608
Academic Journal
Figure-ground organization has a central role in visual perception, since it creates the regions to which properties, such as shape descriptions, are then assigned. However, there is disagreement on how much shape analysis is independent of figure-ground. The reversal of figure-ground of a single closed region is the purest form of figure-ground organization, and the two resulting percepts are that of an object and that of a hole. Both object and hole are nonaccidental regions and can share an identical outline. We devised a test of how figure-ground and contour ownership dramatically affect how shape is processed. Observers judged the shape of a contour that could be either the same as or different from an irrelevant surrounding contour. We report that different (incongruent) inside and outside contours produce a stronger interference effect when they form a single object-with-hole, as compared with a hierarchical set of surfaces or a single hole separating different surfaces (a trench). We conclude that (1) which surface owns the contour constrains the interference between shapes and that (2) despite some recent claims, holes do not display objectlike properties.


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