Grouping in object recognition

The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification

Denis Pelli, Najib J. Majaj, Noah Raizman, Christopher J. Christian, Edward Kim, Melanie C. Palomares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws "prescribe for us what we are to recognize 'as one thing'" (Kohler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and "snakes in the grass" is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, "wiggle", to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-49
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Fingerprint

Noise
Psychology
Grouping
Gestalt
Letters
Object Recognition
Continuation

Keywords

  • Contour integration
  • Dot lattice
  • Features
  • Gestalt
  • Good continuation
  • Grouping
  • Letter identification
  • Object recognition
  • Snake in the grass
  • Snake letters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Grouping in object recognition : The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification. / Pelli, Denis; Majaj, Najib J.; Raizman, Noah; Christian, Christopher J.; Kim, Edward; Palomares, Melanie C.

In: Cognitive Neuropsychology, Vol. 26, No. 1, 2009, p. 36-49.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Pelli, Denis ; Majaj, Najib J. ; Raizman, Noah ; Christian, Christopher J. ; Kim, Edward ; Palomares, Melanie C. / Grouping in object recognition : The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification. In: Cognitive Neuropsychology. 2009 ; Vol. 26, No. 1. pp. 36-49.
@article{af6651a3988741169b2dd63ad0f8bcd0,
title = "Grouping in object recognition: The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification",
abstract = "The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws {"}prescribe for us what we are to recognize 'as one thing'{"} (Kohler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and {"}snakes in the grass{"} is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, {"}wiggle{"}, to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.",
keywords = "Contour integration, Dot lattice, Features, Gestalt, Good continuation, Grouping, Letter identification, Object recognition, Snake in the grass, Snake letters",
author = "Denis Pelli and Majaj, {Najib J.} and Noah Raizman and Christian, {Christopher J.} and Edward Kim and Palomares, {Melanie C.}",
year = "2009",
doi = "10.1080/13546800802550134",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "26",
pages = "36--49",
journal = "Cognitive Neuropsychology",
issn = "0264-3294",
publisher = "Psychology Press Ltd",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Grouping in object recognition

T2 - The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification

AU - Pelli, Denis

AU - Majaj, Najib J.

AU - Raizman, Noah

AU - Christian, Christopher J.

AU - Kim, Edward

AU - Palomares, Melanie C.

PY - 2009

Y1 - 2009

N2 - The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws "prescribe for us what we are to recognize 'as one thing'" (Kohler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and "snakes in the grass" is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, "wiggle", to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.

AB - The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws "prescribe for us what we are to recognize 'as one thing'" (Kohler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and "snakes in the grass" is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, "wiggle", to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.

KW - Contour integration

KW - Dot lattice

KW - Features

KW - Gestalt

KW - Good continuation

KW - Grouping

KW - Letter identification

KW - Object recognition

KW - Snake in the grass

KW - Snake letters

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=67649562561&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=67649562561&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/13546800802550134

DO - 10.1080/13546800802550134

M3 - Article

VL - 26

SP - 36

EP - 49

JO - Cognitive Neuropsychology

JF - Cognitive Neuropsychology

SN - 0264-3294

IS - 1

ER -