Understanding the structural determinants of object confusion in memory: an assessment of psychophysical approaches to estimating visual similarity

Geneviève Desmarais, Mike J Dixon
Perception & Psychophysics 2005, 67 (6): 980-96
Computer-generated shapes varying on visual dimensions such as curvature, tapering, and thickness have been used to investigate identification deficits in the category-specific visual agnosia (CSVA) Patient E.L.M.. However, whether the implemented variations on each of these dimensions were perceived by novice observers as "similar amounts of change" is unknown. To estimate distance in psychophysical shape space, sets of shapes were developed using two different scaling methods--an objective method based on visual search, and a subjective method based on judgments of similarity--and a third approach that did not involve scaling. How well each method estimated psychophysical shape space was assessed by measuring the confusions within memory among the shapes. The results suggested that, although neither of the approaches perfectly reflected psychophysical shape space, subjective scaling was a better estimator of distance in psychophysical shape space than were other approaches. The number of confusions produced on each set of shapes was used to develop a new set of shapes that accurately estimated distance in psychophysical shape space. These results suggest that a combination of approaches is preferable in order to accurately estimate distance in psychophysical shape space.

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