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Cogn Psychol. 2003 Feb;46(1):31-64.

Motion and edge sensitivity in perception of object unity.

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  • 1School of Cognitive Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA.


Although much evidence indicates that young infants perceive unitary objects by analyzing patterns of motion, infants' abilities to perceive object unity by analyzing Gestalt properties and by integrating distinct views of an object over time are in dispute. To address these controversies, four experiments investigated adults' and infants' perception of the unity of a center-occluded, moving rod with misaligned visible edges. Both alignment information and depth information affected adults' and infants' perception of object unity in similar ways, and infants perceived object unity by integrating information about object features over time. However, infants perceived a moving, misaligned, three-dimensional object as indeterminate in its connectedness, whereas adults perceived it as connected behind the occluder. These findings indicate that the effectiveness of common motion in specifying unified surfaces across an occluder is reduced by misalignment of edges. Alignment information enhances perception of object unity either by serving directly as information for unity or by optimizing the detectability of motion-carried information for unity. In addition, young infants are able to retain information about edge orientation over short intervals in determining connectedness via a process of spatiotemporal integration.

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