Preattentive recovery of three-dimensional orientation from line drawings

It has generally been assumed that rapid visual search is based on simple features and that spatial relations between features are irrelevant for this task. Seven experiments involving search for line drawings contradict this assumption; a major determinant of search is the presence of line junctions. Arrow- and Y-junctions were detected rapidly in isolation and when they were embedded in drawings of rectangular polyhedra. Search for T-junctions was considerably slower. Drawings containing T-junctions often gave rise to very slow search even when distinguishing arrow- or Y-junctions were present. This sensitivity to line relations suggests that preattentive processes can extract 3-dimensional orientation from line drawings. A computational model is outlined for how this may be accomplished in early human vision.
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