Tracking Multiple Items Through Occlusion: Clues to Visual Objecthood
In three experiments, subjects attempted to track multiple items as they moved independently and unpredictably about a display. Performance was not impaired when the items were briefly (but completely) occluded at various times during their motion, suggesting that occlusion is taken into account when computing enduring perceptual objecthood. Unimpaired performance required the presence of accretion and deletion cues along fixed contours at the occluding boundaries. Performance was impaired when items were present on the visual field at the same times and to the same degrees as in the occlusion conditions, but disappeared and reappeared in ways which did not implicate the presence of occluding surfaces (e.g. by imploding and exploding into and out of existence, instead of accreting and deleting along a fixed contour). Unimpaired performance did not require visible occluders (i.e. Michotte’s tunnel effect) or globally consistent occluder positions. We discuss implications of these results for theories of objecthood in visual attention.
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