December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Perceiving relational structure
Author Affiliations
  • Alon Hafri
    Johns Hopkins University
  • Chaz Firestone
    Johns Hopkins University
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3082. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Alon Hafri, Chaz Firestone; Perceiving relational structure. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3082.

      Download citation file:

      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

When we open our eyes, we immediately see the colors, shapes, and sizes of the objects around us — round apples, wooden tables, small kittens, and so on — all without effort or intention. Now consider relations between these objects: An apple supported by a table, or two kittens chasing one another. Are these experiences just as immediate and perceptual, or do they require effort and reflection to arise? Which properties of relations are genuinely perceived, and how can we know? Here, we outline a framework for distinguishing perception of relations from mere judgments about them, centered on behavioral "signatures" that implicate rapid, automatic visual processing as distinct from high-level judgment. We then discuss several case studies demonstrating that visual relations fall within this framework. First, we show that physical relations such as containment and support are extracted in an abstract manner, such that instances of these relations involving very different objects are confused for one another in fast target-identification tasks. Second, we show that the mind "fills in" required elements of a relation that are inferred from physical interaction (e.g., a man running into an invisible "wall"), producing visual priming in object detection tasks. Third, we show that when objects look like they can physically fit together, this impression influences numerosity estimates of those objects. We argue that visual processing itself extracts sophisticated, structured relations, and we reflect on the consequences of this view for theorizing about visual perception more broadly.


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.