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Jason Bell, Sarah Hancock, Frederick A. A. Kingdom, Jonathan W. Peirce; Global shape processing: Which parts form the whole?. Journal of Vision 2010;10(6):16. doi: 10.1167/10.6.16.
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Research suggests that detection of low-frequency radial frequency (RF) patterns involves global shape processing and that points of maximum curvature (corners) contribute more than points of minimum curvature (sides). However, this has only been tested with stimuli presented at the threshold of discriminability from a circle. We used RF pattern adaptation to (a) examine whether a supra-threshold RF pattern is processed as a global shape and (b) determine what the critical features are for representing its shape. We measured the perceived amplitude shift of an RF test pattern after prolonged exposure either to a higher amplitude pattern or to various combinations of its parts (concave maxima, convex maxima, inflections). We found greater shifts in perceived amplitude after adaptation to a “whole” pattern than after adaptation to its component parts, which alternated to produce equal net contrast. Furthermore, when adapting to specific parts of the shape in isolation, we found that each part generated a similar magnitude aftereffect. Although the whole is clearly greater than the sum of the parts, we find that concave maxima, convex maxima, and inflections contribute equally to global shape processing, a fact that is only apparent when using a supra-threshold appearance-based task.
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