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J Vis. 2010 Dec 29;10(14). pii: 30. doi: 10.1167/10.14.30.

Experience affects the use of ego-motion signals during 3D shape perception.

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SUNY Eye Institute and Graduate Center for Vision Research, SUNY College of Optometry, New York, NY 10036, USA.


Experience has long-term effects on perceptual appearance (Q. Haijiang, J. A. Saunders, R. W. Stone, & B. T. Backus, 2006). We asked whether experience affects the appearance of structure-from-motion stimuli when the optic flow is caused by observer ego-motion. Optic flow is an ambiguous depth cue: a rotating object and its oppositely rotating, depth-inverted dual generate similar flow. However, the visual system exploits ego-motion signals to prefer the percept of an object that is stationary over one that rotates (M. Wexler, F. Panerai, I. Lamouret, & J. Droulez, 2001). We replicated this finding and asked whether this preference for stationarity, the "stationarity prior," is modulated by experience. During training, two groups of observers were exposed to objects with identical flow, but that were either stationary or moving as determined by other cues. The training caused identical test stimuli to be seen preferentially as stationary or moving by the two groups, respectively. We then asked whether different priors can exist independently at different locations in the visual field. Observers were trained to see objects either as stationary or as moving at two different locations. Observers' stationarity bias at the two respective locations was modulated in the directions consistent with training. Thus, the utilization of extraretinal ego-motion signals for disambiguating optic flow signals can be updated as the result of experience, consistent with the updating of a Bayesian prior for stationarity.

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