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Similarity in motion binds and bends judgments of aspect ratio.

Vision Research 2024 April 10
It is well known that objects become grouped in perceptual organization when they share some visual feature, like a common direction of motion. Less well known is that grouping can change how people perceive a set of objects. For example, when a pair of shapes consistently share a common region of space, their aspect ratios tend to be perceived as more similar (are attracted toward each other). Conversely, when shapes are assigned to different regions in space their aspect ratios repel from each other. Here we examine whether the visual system produce both attractive and repulsive distortions when the state of grouping between a pair of shapes changes on a moment-to-moment basis. Observers viewed a pair of ellipses that differed in terms of how flat or tall they were and reported the aspect ratio of one ellipse from the pair. Each ellipse was defined by a cloud of coherently-moving dots, and the dots within the two ellipses had either the same or different directions of motion, varying from trial-to-trial. We found that the cued ellipse's aspect ratio was reported to be repelled from the aspect ratio of the uncued ellipse when the shapes had different directions of motion compared to when they had the same direction of motion. These results suggest that the visual system can adaptively alter visual experience based on grouping, in particular, repelling the appearance of objects when they do not appear to go together, and it can do so quickly and flexibly.

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