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Anna Barlasov-Ioffe, Shaul Hochstein; Perceiving illusory contours: Figure detection and shape discrimination. Journal of Vision 2008;8(11):14. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.11.14.
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We investigate the relationship between illusory figure detection and discrimination of its shape, asking whether these depend on a single, two separate, or two sequential processes. In a simultaneous detection–discrimination experiment, we presented subjects with brief, backward-masked Kanizsa-type patterns consisting of four “pacmen,” arranged as if at the corners of a 60-degree parallelogram. Pacman openings were oriented in a quarter of the trials so as to induce an illusory parallelogram. In another quarter, three of the pacmen induced an equilateral triangle. In the remaining half, pacmen were rotated so as not to induce a complete figure. For each trial, subjects reported whether they perceived an illusory figure (detection) and which shape they saw (discrimination), “guessing” the shape even when it was not explicitly perceived. Average detection and discrimination psychometric curves were similar with significantly better-than-chance detection and discrimination beginning at ∼100 ms. Nevertheless, we found three patterns of performance, representing different detection–discrimination relationships, suggesting these may be separate processes. Detection was not always followed by correct discrimination, especially for poorer performers. Interestingly there were also cases where discrimination was accurate, even without detection, especially in mid-level performers. One detection–discrimination interaction was that only with explicit detection did shape discrimination use local features (such as the orientation of the fourth pacman in the case of an illusory triangle). We suggest that illusory figure detection and shape discrimination are separate tasks, with their relationship being determined individually.
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