The integration of straight contours (snakes and ladders): the role of spatial arrangement, spatial frequency and spatial phase

Bellacosa Marotti, Rosilari, Pavan, Andrea and Casco, Clara (2012) The integration of straight contours (snakes and ladders): the role of spatial arrangement, spatial frequency and spatial phase. Vision Research, 71 . pp. 44-52. ISSN 0042-6989

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In the present study we addressed the issue of whether the Gestalt principle of grouping by similarity (iso-orientation) subtends extraction of straight contours made up of disconnected, iso-oriented Gabor elements, whether collinear (snakes) or parallel (ladders). To prevent the use of the most obvious grouping principle of good continuation, which allows us to perceive the relation between local and global orientation along the contour, we manipulated the spatial arrangement of randomly oriented Gabors in the background: they were positioned on an ordered grid, and grouped on the basis of good continuation, or randomly positioned and not grouped. Grid-positioned backgrounds exert a suppressive contextual influence on detection of good continuation along the contour path. Results obtained in a two-interval forced choice task showed that the orderly-positioned background did not completely prevent detection of snakes and ladders. Detection of snakes was hampered at low spatial frequency whereas detection of ladders was improved by the randomly-positioned background at high spatial frequency. These contextual influences support the suggestion that both iso-orientation and good continuation rules are employed by the association field underlying the binding of straight contours. In addition, they are not compatible with integration of snakes and ladders elements within a single receptive field. In support of this suggestion we found that phase constancy within contour elements (as opposed to phase randomization) improved snake detectability at low spatial frequency, and, unexpectedly, impaired ladder detectability at high spatial frequency. This suggests that a low-level mechanism based on the balance between excitatory and inhibitory lateral interactions at a first stage may account for the detection of both straight contours.

Keywords:Contour binding, Collinear facilitation, Association field, Snake, Ladder, Phase, Spatial frequency
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:16316
Deposited On:20 Dec 2014 20:41

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