Modal and amodal completion generate different shapes
Psychological Science, 15, 454-459 (2004)
Mechanisms of contour completion are critical for computing visual surface structure in the face of occlusion. Theories of visual completion posit that mechanisms of contour interpolation operate independently of whether the completion is modal or amodalthereby generating identical shapes in the two cases. This identity hypothesis was tested in two experiments using a configuration of two overlapping objects and a modified Kanizsa configuration. Participants adjusted the shape of a comparison display in order to match the shape of perceived interpolated contours in a standard completion display. Results revealed large and systematic shape differences between modal and amodal contours in both configurations. Participants perceived amodal (i.e., partly occluded) contours to be systematically more angularthat is, closer to a cornerthan corresponding modal (i.e., illusory) contours. The results falsify the identity hypothesis in its current form: Corresponding modal and amodal contours can have different shapes, and, therefore, mechanisms of contour interpolation cannot be independent of completion type.