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Vision Res. 2012 Apr 15;59:45-63. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2011.11.015. Epub 2012 Feb 25.

Motion perception induced by dynamic grouping: a probe for the compositional structure of objects.

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Department of Psychology, Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA.


A new method is described for determining how the visual system resolves ambiguities in the compositional structure of multi-surface objects; i.e., how the surfaces of objects are grouped together to form a hierarchical structure. The method entails dynamic grouping motion, a high level process in which changes in a surface (e.g., increases or decreases in its luminance, hue or texture) transiently perturb its affinity with adjacent surfaces. Affinity is determined by the combined effects of Gestalt and other grouping variables in indicating that a pair of surfaces forms a subunit within an object's compositional structure. Such pre-perturbation surface groupings are indicated by the perception of characteristic motions across the changing surface. When the affinity of adjacent surfaces is increased by a dynamic grouping variable, their grouping is transiently strengthened; the perceived motion is away from their boundary. When the affinity of adjacent surfaces is decreased, their grouping is transiently weakened; the perceived motion is toward the surfaces' boundary. It is shown that the affinity of adjacent surfaces depends on the nonlinear, super-additive combination of affinity values ascribable to individual grouping variables, and the effect of dynamic grouping variables on motion perception depends on the prior, pre-perturbation affinity state of the surfaces. It is proposed that affinity-based grouping of an object's surfaces must be consistent with the activation of primitive three-dimensional object components in order for the object to be recognized. Also discussed is the potential use of dynamic grouping for determining the compositional structure of multi-object scenes.

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