In Vision It Is Groups, Rather Than Maps, That Determine How We Perceive the World

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This paper presents the results of a study that used a speeded counting task to adjudicate between two competing theories of how perceptual representations of visual objects are derived. Boolean map (BM) theory assumes that there are strict limits on conscious awareness, such that we only have serial access to features on the same dimension (e.g., red and green). This theory contrasts with views that emphasize the early grouping of features, and which assume that feature processing is interactive and underpins figure/ground segregation as a necessary precursor to object perception. To test between these theories, we report performance in a speeded counting task in which participants were asked to judge which of two shapes was more prevalent. Displays contained squares and circles that appeared in either of two colors, with color and shape distinctions either perfectly correlated (i.e., compatible) or not (i.e., incompatible). BM theory predicts no influence of the relative coincidence of color and shape on the identification of the more prevalent shape. In contrast, grouping theory predicts that performance will be better when the color/shape distinction is compatible than when it is incompatible. Our data strongly support the grouping theory predictions. We conclude that the primary constraints on how visual objects are accessed are the number and kind of groupings that are recovered, not the number of feature maps consulted
Original languageEnglish
Article number51
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022

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