Visual Form Created Solely from Temporal Structure

Science  14 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5417, pp. 1165-1168
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5417.1165

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In several experiments, it was found that global perception of spatial form can arise exclusively from unpredictable but synchronized changes among local features. Within an array of nonoverlapping apertures, contours move in one of two directions, with direction reversing randomly over time. When contours within a region of the array reverse directions in synchrony, they stand out conspicuously from the rest of the array where direction reversals are unsynchronized. Clarity of spatial structure from synchronized change depends on the rate of motion reversal and on the proportion of elements reversing direction in synchrony. Evidently, human vision is sensitive to the rich temporal structure in these stochastic events.

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