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Detection of a Gabor patch superimposed on an illusory contour

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

Interactions between visual stimuli have been found to be specific to the spatial frequency, orientation and phase of the interacting stimuli. We asked if there are any interactions between luminance-defined Gabor patches and Kanizsa-type illusory contours. In psychophysical experiments we studied whether induction of a vertical illusory line affects detection thresholds for a Gabor patch superimposed on this line and whether these effects depend on the orientation, spatial frequency and phase of the Gabor elements. Employing a 2AFC method with a staircase procedure we measured contrast detection thresholds and varied the orientation, spatial frequency and phase of the test Gabor patch and the separation between the two pacmen in four experimental series. The results show that in a situation where the two inducers generate perception of an illusory line, the contrast detection of the Gabor patch is facilitated relative to a control condition where the rotated pacmen do not induce illusory contours. This facilitation was more pronounced for test Gabor signals that were collinear to the illusory line, but the observer's performance was not altered by changes in the spatial frequency or phase of the Gabor stimuli. With increasing spatial separation of the two pacmen (and, consequently, with a decreasing support ratio), the difference between performance in the test and control conditions diminished. From the data obtained we cannot infer that we have measured some neural interactions between Gabor patches and Kanizsa-type illusory contours, and nor can we draw a unique conclusion about what causes the facilitation of detection of the test Gabor patch in the experimental situation that allows induction of the illusory line. We discuss possible mechanisms of the facilitation, such as contextual influences or a reduction of uncertainty about spatial location of the test Gabor patch.

Affiliations: 1: I. P.Pavlov Institute of Physiology, Vision Physiology Laboratory, Nab. Makarova, 6, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia; 2: CKIR (Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research), HSEBA (Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration), Arkadiankatu 24, P.O. Box 1210, FI 00101 Helsinki, Finland


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