Modal and amodal completion generate different shapes

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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 amodal - thereby 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 angular-that is, closer to a corner - than 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-459
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

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