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Cognition. 1997 Apr;63(1):29-78.

Salience of visual parts.

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Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.


Many objects have component parts, and these parts often differ in their visual salience. In this paper we present a theory of part salience. The theory builds on the minima rule for defining part boundaries. According to this rule, human vision defines part boundaries at negative minima of curvature on silhouettes, and along negative minima of the principal curvatures on surfaces. We propose that the salience of a part depends on (at least) three factors: its size relative to the whole object, the degree to which it protrudes, and the strength of its boundaries. We present evidence that these factors influence visual processes which determine the choice of figure and ground. We give quantitative definitions for the factors, visual demonstrations of their effects, and results of psychophysical experiments.

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