The interpolation of object and surface structure

Barton L. Anderson, Manish Singh, Roland W. Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


One of the main theoretical challenges of vision science is to explain how the visual system interpolates missing structure. Two forms of visual completion have been distinguished on the basis of the phenomenological states that they induce. Modal completion refers to the formation of visible surfaces and/or contours in image regions where these properties are not specified locally. A modal completion refers to the perceived unity of objects that are partially obscured by occluding surfaces. Although these two forms of completion elicit very different phenomenological states, it has been argued that a common mechanism underlies modal and amodal boundary and surface interpolation (the "identity hypothesis"; Kellman & Shipley, 1991; Kellman, 2001). Here, we provide new data, demonstrations, and theoretical principles that challenge this view. We show that modal boundary and surface completion processes exhibit a strong dependence on the prevailing luminance relationships of a scene, whereas amodal completion processes do not. We also demonstrate that the shape of interpolated contours can change when a figure undergoes a transition from a modal to an amodal appearance, in direct contrast to the identity hypothesis. We argue that these and previous results demonstrate that modal and amodal completion do not result from a common interpolation mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-190
Number of pages43
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Depth
  • Form and shape perception
  • Grouping
  • Illusory contours
  • Object perception

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The interpolation of object and surface structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this