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Tom R. Scherzer, Vebjørn Ekroll; Partial modal completion under occlusion: What do modal and amodal percepts represent?. Journal of Vision 2015;15(1):22. doi: 10.1167/15.1.22.
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© 2016 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
In the occlusion illusion, a partly occluded object is perceived as though it were less occluded than it actually is (Palmer, Brooks, & Lai, 2007). We confirm and extend this finding using a stimulus with a moving occluder. In agreement with Palmer et al.'s (2007) findings and their partial-modal-completion hypothesis, we found that the illusion is indeed related to the sensory evidence for occlusion. Our experiments also confirm their speculation that the occlusion illusion involves an intriguing, seemingly paradoxical percept. In our experiments, subjects viewed an opaque disk with an open sector rotating in front of a background and indicated the perceived angular extent (a) of the occluder and (b) of the part of the background experienced as directly visible through the open sector. While the former was judged quite accurately, the latter was clearly overestimated. Thus, the angular extent of the background experienced as occluded and the extent experienced as directly visible sum to more than 360°, which makes the total percept an impossible figure. We argue that the key to resolving this paradox is to question the seemingly self-evident assumption that occluded and unoccluded portions of a visual scene are represented by amodal and modal percepts, respectively. Instead, we propose that visual percepts are experienced as modal whenever they are based on sufficiently conclusive sensory evidence and are otherwise experienced as amodal. Functionally, this perceptual representation of the conclusiveness of the sensory evidence underlying perceptual inferences might be more useful than estimates about optical visibility.
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