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Perceptual Organization

Object recognition appears effortless, but the mechanisms underlying recognition are exceedingly complex. For example, the visual information that reaches our eyes is incomplete, yet we perceive complete, coherent objects, and such perception seems instantaneous and effortless. Traditionally, research in the area of perceptual organization was highly introspective and subjective. However, we have developed objective and quantitative measures of perceptual organization, enabling us to ask new questions about perceptual organization.

As one example, our group was the first to use objective methods to show, contrary to phenomenology, visual completion requires measurable time. In addition, the time required for completion varies depending on context (e.g., increasing as a function of increasing occlusion), and the addition of motion to an occlusion display can increase the strength of completion (while not affecting the speed of completion).
More recently, we have applied the response classification image technique to explore aspects of perceptual organization that would otherwise be "invisible." One example, from work on modal and amodal completion is shown in the figure above. In another project, we have identified individual differences among the parts of a stimulus driving texture segregation.
The main goals of current VCNLab research on perceptual organization are to further elucidate the role of context and prior experience on our organization of visual information, and to understand the neural systems underlying perceptual organization.
Recent sample publications.
M Nagai, PJ Bennett & AB Sekuler (2007) Spatiotemporal templates for detection of orientation-defined targets. Journal of Vision, 7, 1-16.
SE Guttman, AB Sekuler & PJ Kellman (2003) Temporal variations in visual completion: A reflection of spatial limits? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 1211-1227.
AB Sekuler & PJ Bennett (2001) Generalized common fate: Grouping by common luminance changes. Psychological Science, 12, 437-444.
VCNLab research on Perceptual Organization is funded by NSERC and the Canada Research Chair program.

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