Early computation of part structure: Evidence from visual search
Yaoda Xu and Manish Singh
Perception & Psychophysics, 64(7):1039-1054 (2002)


 The visual system represents object shapes in terms of intermediate-level parts. The minima rule proposes that the visual system uses negative minima of curvature to define boundaries between parts. We used visual search to test whether part structures consistent with the minima rule are computed preattentively---or at least, rapidly and early in visual processing. The results of Experiments 1 and 2 showed that whereas the search for a non-minima-segmented shape is fast and efficient among minimasegmented shapes, the reverse search is slow and inefficient. This asymmetry is expected if parsing at negative minima occurs obligatorily. The results of Experiments 3 and 4 showed that although both minima- and non-minima-segmented shapes pop out among unsegmented shapes, the search for minima-segmented shapes is significantly slower. Together, these results demonstrate that the visual system segments shapes into parts, using negative minima of curvature, and that it does so rapidly in early stages of visual processing.