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Going round in circles: shape effects in the Ebbinghaus illusion

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For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

The Ebbinghaus illusion has traditionally been considered as either a sensory or a cognitive illusion, or some combination of these two. Cognitive contrast explanations take support from the way the illusion varies with the degree of shape similarity between the test and inducing elements; we show, however, that contour interaction explanations may account for this result too. We therefore tested these alternative theories by measuring the illusion with different test shapes as well as different inducer shapes, in all combinations. We found that for angular or hexagonal test shapes there is no similarity effect, and for some shape combinations there is no significant illusion, in contradiction to both of the traditional hypotheses. Instead, we suggest that an integrated model of visual processing is needed to account for the illusion.


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