Rotating columns: Relating structure-from-motion, accretion/ deletion, and figure/ground

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13 Scopus citations


We present a novel phenomenon involving an interaction between accretion deletion, figure-ground interpretation, and structure-from-motion. Our displays contain alternating light and dark vertical regions in which random-dot textures moved horizontally at constant speed but in opposite directions in alternating regions. This motion is consistent with all the light regions in front, with the dark regions completing amodally into a single large surface moving in the background, or vice versa. Surprisingly, the regions that are perceived as figural are also perceived as 3-D volumes rotating in depth (like rotating columns)- despite the fact that dot motion is not consistent with 3- D rotation. In a series of experiments, we found we could manipulate which set of regions is perceived as rotating volumes simply by varying known geometric cues to figure ground, including convexity, parallelism, symmetry, and relative area. Subjects indicated which colored regions they perceived as rotating. For our displays we found convexity to be a stronger cue than either symmetry or parallelism. We furthermore found a smooth monotonic decay of the proportion by which subjects perceive symmetric regions as figural, as a function of their relative area. Our results reveal an intriguing new interaction between accretion-deletion, figure-ground, and 3-D motion that is not captured by existing models. They also provide an effective tool for measuring figure-ground perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


  • Accretion-deletion
  • Figure-ground
  • Perceptual organization
  • Structure-from-motion


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