Experiencing and perceiving visual surfaces

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Science  04 Sep 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5075, pp. 1357-1363
DOI: 10.1126/science.1529336


A theoretical framework is proposed to understand binocular visual surface perception based on the idea of a mobile observer sampling images from random vantage points in space. Application of the generic sampling principle indicates that the visual system acts as if it were viewing surface layouts from generic not accidental vantage points. Through the observer's experience of optical sampling, which can be characterized geometrically, the visual system makes associative connections between images and surfaces, passively internalizing the conditional probabilities of image sampling from surfaces. This in turn enables the visual system to determine which surface a given image most strongly indicates. Thus, visual surface perception can be considered as inverse ecological optics based on learning through ecological optics. As such, it is formally equivalent to a degenerate form of Bayesian inference where prior probabilities are neglected.