Perceptual Science Series

What pictures tell us about surface perception

Dr. Dhanraj Vishwanath

Monday, April 24, 2006, 02:00pm - 03:00pm

Rochester Institute of Technology, Department of Psychology

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Pictures are a special class of visual surfaces that rarely occur in nature, yet the effects observed in viewing them may provide clues to the nature of surface perception in general. One class of effects involves the perception of the shape and layout of a pictured object, most notably, the apparent invariance to changes in viewing position. I will present some work suggesting that perceived invariance is not a result of specialized picture perception mechanisms as previously suggested, but is due to a visual adjustment based on an estimate of local surface slant across the picture surface. This mechanism also explains other metric effects, such as wide angle distortions and the anamorphic effect, that have often been given disparate explanations. I will discuss the implications of these results for surface perception in general, particularly on why we even see 3-dimensional shape on a 2D surface.

Dr. Dhanraj Vishwanath