Binocular Depth Perception without Familiarity Cues

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Science  24 Jul 1964:
Vol. 145, Issue 3630, pp. 356-362
DOI: 10.1126/science.145.3630.356


The reported phenomena were obtained through the use of special techniques. (i) All monocular depth and familiarity cues were removed from the stimuli (through the use of randomdot stereo patterns). (ii) The statistical and topological properties of the stimuli were precisely known (since they were generated according to a specific computer program). (iii) Convergence motions of the eye and proprioceptive cues were eliminated (through the use of tachistoscopic illumination). (iv) The time of presentation was under control (through erasure of the persistent afterimages). Under these conditions stereopsis could be studied in its purest form. It was shown that depth can be perceived in the absence of monocular depth and familiarity cues and of all binocular depth cues except for disparity. These findings have important implications for some existing theories of stereopsis and open up areas for further research. Some phenomena based on stereo erasure are reported here for the first time. It has been demonstrated that the perception of ambiguous depth organizations can be influenced, even subliminally, by a preceding unambiguous stimulus. Perhaps the most interesting result is the finding that the correspondence of objects and patterns in the two retinal projections can be established without actual recognition of the objects and patterns. This pattern matching is based on some relatively simple processes of finding connected clusters formed by adjacent points of similar brightness, and the processes seem to be amenable to rigorous analysis.