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Ken Nakayama; Subjective contours: Gateway to otherwise hidden visual processes. Journal of Vision 2017;17(15):24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.15.24.
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Our visual system has the capacity to parse the raw image into occluded and occluding surfaces arranged in a perceived three-dimensional space. How this is done is not fully understood and represents a significant contemporary challenge. Several approaches have contributed heavily to our present understanding. Most notable was the phenomenological work on visual perception starting with Edgar Rubin, over 100 years ago. His work on figure ground forms the basis for modern work. Also critical is electrophysiological work pioneered by Rudiger von der Heydt where he has identified cells in primate visual cortex that respond to 3-D scene characteristics.
Here Professor Barbara Gillam and I extend the work Edgar Rubin and his successors arguing that subjective contours are a direct phenomenological expression of an otherwise hidden process that finds surface borders. This allows the presence of subjective contours to act as a probe to more systematically determine the kinds of information that is used in the surface parsing process. Thus qualitative phenomenology has the surprising ability to lay bare specific visual processes that mediate surface processing
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