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Iperception. 2011;2(1):50-68. doi: 10.1068/i0398. Epub 2011 Mar 30.

Alternation frequency thresholds for stereopsis as a technique for exploring stereoscopic difficulties.

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Moscow City Psychological and Pedagogical University, 29 Sretenka St, Moscow 127051, Russia; e-mail:


When stereoscopic images are presented alternately to the two eyes, stereopsis occurs at F ≥ 1 Hz full-cycle frequencies for very simple stimuli, and F ≥ 3 Hz full-cycle frequencies for random-dot stereograms (eg Ludwig I, Pieper W, Lachnit H, 2007 "Temporal integration of monocular images separated in time: stereopsis, stereoacuity, and binocular luster" Perception & Psychophysics69 92-102). Using twenty different stereograms presented through liquid crystal shutters, we studied the transition to stereopsis with fifteen subjects. The onset of stereopsis was observed during a stepwise increase of the alternation frequency, and its disappearance was observed during a stepwise decrease in frequency. The lowest F values (around 2.5 Hz) were observed with stimuli involving two to four simple disjoint elements (circles, arcs, rectangles). Higher F values were needed for stimuli containing slanted elements or curved surfaces (about 1 Hz increment), overlapping elements at two different depths (about 2.5 Hz increment), or camouflaged overlapping surfaces (> 7 Hz increment). A textured cylindrical surface with a horizontal axis appeared easier to interpret (5.7 Hz) than a pair of slanted segments separated in depth but forming a cross in projection (8 Hz). Training effects were minimal, and F usually increased as disparities were reduced. The hierarchy of difficulties revealed in the study may shed light on various problems that the brain needs to solve during stereoscopic interpretation. During the construction of the three-dimensional percept, the loss of information due to natural decay of the stimuli traces must be compensated by refreshes of visual input. In the discussion an attempt is made to link our results with recent advances in the comprehension of visual scene memory.


processing times; shear disparities; slant; stereopsis; stereoscopic memory; temporal integration

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