The nature of shape constancy mechanisms as revealed by shape priming

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Five shape priming experiments are reported in which the target was either a five- or six-sided line-drawn figure and participants made a speeded 2AFC judgment about the target’s number of sides. On priming trials, the target was preceded by a briefly presented smaller line figure (the prime) and performance on these trials was gauged relative to a no prime condition. In the first two experiments, primes were rendered invisible by the presentation of a backwards visual noise mask, respectively for a short (~40 ms) or long duration (~93 ms). No reliable priming effects arose under masked conditions. When these experiments were repeated without the mask, participants were speeded when the prime and target were related by a rigid through-the-plane rotation but not when the prime was a non-rigid, stretched version of the target. The same pattern of priming effects arose when, in a final experiment, novel irregular shapes were used. Collectively, the data reveal the operation of shape constancy mechanisms that are particularly sensitive to shape rigidity. The findings suggest that the visual system attempts to secure a correspondence between the rapid and successive presentations of the prime and the target by matching shapes according to a rigidity constraint.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018

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