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Do alignment thresholds define a critical boundary in long-range detection facilitation with co-linear lines?

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Thresholds for line contrast detection (experiment 2) were measured with a two-alternative temporal forced-choice procedure as a function of the spatial position of a vertical target line with regard to two co-linear context lines. The different spatial positions of the target line corresponded to values near the position discrimination threshold (experiment 1) reflecting the just detectable lateral offset, or non-co-linearity, between the context lines which were vertically separated by about 100 minutes of visual arc. Target and context lines were vertically separated by about 30 minutes of arc, had equal contrast polarity in one case, and opposite contrast polarity in the other. Strong line contrast detection facilitation is found at perceptually co-linear target locations. This facilitation decreases noticeably at a horizontal target offset that corresponds to the alignment threshold measured with the context lines. The effects are independent of the relative contrast polarity of target and context and, as shown in a third experiment, also independent of both the relative length or number of lines, and the magnitude of their absolute co-axial separation. This independence seems to hold, provided individual line length and co-axial distance between lines are larger than what appears to be the lower limit of the long-range spatial domain for orientation or contour integration (i.e. 20 minutes of arc), as determined by previous studies. The findings reported here suggest that alignment thresholds are likely to define a critical lateral boundary in long-range detection facilitation with co-linear lines. They support models of contour integration based on interactions between neural mechanisms that integrate local signals of contrast, orientation, and relative position or end-to-end alignment. Such mechanisms may help to explain the formation of representations of virtual contours and object contours in human perception.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire de Systèmes BioMécaniques et Cognitifs, Université Louis Pasteur, Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Physique de Strasbourg, Illkirch, France


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