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Psychol Sci. 2012 Dec;23(12):1534-41. doi: 10.1177/0956797612446348. Epub 2012 Oct 18.

Emergent filling in induced by motion integration reveals a high-level mechanism in filling in.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA.


The visual system is intelligent--it is capable of recovering a coherent surface from an incomplete one, a feat known as perceptual completion or filling in. Traditionally, it has been assumed that surface features are interpolated in a way that resembles the fragmented parts. Using displays featuring four circular apertures, we showed in the study reported here that a distinct completed feature (horizontal motion) arises from local ones (oblique motions)-we term this process emergent filling in. Adaptation to emergent filling-in motion generated a dynamic motion aftereffect that was not due to spreading of local motion from the isolated apertures. The filling-in motion aftereffect occurred in both modal and amodal completions, and it was modulated by selective attention. These findings highlight the importance of high-level interpolation processes in filling in and are consistent with the idea that during emergent filling in, the more cognitive-symbolic processes in later areas (e.g., the middle temporal visual area and the lateral occipital complex) provide important feedback signals to guide more isomorphic processes in earlier areas (V1 and V2).

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