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Perceptual organization reconsidered in the light of the watercolor illusion: the problem of perception of holes and the object-hole effect

Pinna, Baingio and Tanca, Maria (2008) Perceptual organization reconsidered in the light of the watercolor illusion: the problem of perception of holes and the object-hole effect. Journal of Vision, Vol. 8 (7), p. 1-15. eISSN 1534-7362. Article.

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DOI: 10.1167/8.7.8


The watercolor illusion is a long-range color assimilation (coloration effect) imparting a figure-ground segregation (figural effect) across large enclosed areas (B. Pinna, 1987; B. Pinna, G. Brelstaff, & L. Spillmann, 2001; B. Pinna, L. Spillmann, & J. S. Werner, 2003; B. Pinna, J. S. Werner, & L. Spillmann, 2003). The watercolored figure has a very poorly reversible or univocal figure-ground segregation and strongly enhances the unilateral belongingness of the boundaries (E. Rubin, 1915), a principle stating that the boundaries belong only to the figure and not to the background. The figural effect determines grouping and figure-ground segregation more strongly than the well-known Gestalt principles. Under watercolor conditions both the figure and the background assume new properties becoming respectively bulging object and hole both with a 3-D volumetric appearance (object-hole effect). Our purposes were: (i) to demonstrate that the hole induced by the watercolor illusion has unique figural properties comparable to those of the object and not present in the background induced by the known figure-ground principles; (ii) to demonstrate a dissociation of the object-hole effect from the coloration one; (iii) to demonstrate that the object-hole effect depends on a new principle. This was psychophysically tested by weakening (ungrouping) the whole figural organization of the watercolor illusion, i.e. by imparting motion to only some components of a stimulus, while other components remain stationary. The results showed that (i) subjects perceived moving holes more strongly than moving figures or objects enlarging and shrinking. (ii) Paradoxically, moving holes appear more as figures than the bulging surfaces. (iii) When motion was imparted to components that while stationary were perceived as objects, their figurality is further enhanced (summation effect). (iv) When object-hole and coloration effects were dissociated no significant difference compared to illusory colored conditions was reported. Coloration can be considered independent from the object-hole effect of the watercolor illusion. The object-hole effect may depend on the “asymmetric luminance contrast principle” (B. Pinna, 2005).

Item Type:Article
ID Code:2627
Uncontrolled Keywords:Color vision, perceptual organization, watercolor illusion, figure-ground segregation, object-hole effect, figurality, hole perception
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/01 Psicologia generale
Divisions:001 Università di Sassari > 01 Dipartimenti > Scienze dei linguaggi
Publisher:Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Deposited On:18 Aug 2009 10:08

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