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Optical tearing in spatiotemporal boundary formation: When do local element motions produce boundaries, form, and global motion?

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

—Perception of continuous boundaries, shape, and global motion can be produced by transformations in local elements separated in both space and time, a process here called spatiotemporal boundary formation (SBF). Prior research has shown that a broad class of element transformations gives rise to SBF. The present work used the transformation of local element displacement to explore the initiating conditions for SBF. Three experiments assessed SBF using a 10-alternative, forced-choice, shape identification task. Experiment la showed that large element displacements, but not small ones, produced high accuracy in shape identification. Experiment Ib tested the detectability of the small and large element displacements in an unrelated task, indicating that the results of Experiment 1a were not due to poor detectability for small displacements. Experiment 2 found no variation in SBF performance with changes in viewing distance. Experiment 3 provided evidence that initiating SBF depends on a ratio of element displacement to element separation. These results support an interpretation of SBF as a process geared to detection of object boundaries from spatiotemporal change. Initiating SBF requires transformations in local elements that are classified as spatiotemporal discontinuities (STDs). Small element displacements in a display of a given density do not register as STDs because they are classified as local deformations in an intact, implicit surface connecting visible elements. Complementarity is suggested between element changes which preserve continuity with their neighbors (optic flow) and those comprising spatiotemporal discontinuities (optic tearing). Classification of element transformations as optic flow or tearing may determine whether they provide information about surface form (e.g., through structure-from-motion) or about object boundaries, through SBF.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA; 2: Department of Psychology, University of California, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA


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