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Perceptual coupling of multiple point-light figures

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When confronted with multiple bistable stimuli at the same time, the visual system tends to generate a common interpretation for all stimuli. We exploit this perceptual-coupling phenomenon to investigate the perception of depth in bistable point-light figures. Observers indicate the global depth orientation of simultaneously presented point-light figures while the similarity between the stimuli is manipulated. In a first experiment, a higher occurrence of coupled percepts is found for identical figures, but coupling breaks down when either the movement pattern or both the viewpoint and the phase-relation are changed. A second experiment confirms these results, but also demonstrates that different point-light actions can be subject to perceptual coupling as long as they share the same viewpoint and exhibit equivalent degrees of perceptual ambiguity. The data are consistent with an explanation in terms of differential contributions of stored, view-dependent object and action representations and of an interaction between stages processing local stimulus features. The consequences of these results are discussed in the framework of an explicit model for the perception of depth in biological motion.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium

Publication date: May 1, 2007


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