Contribution of higher-order structure to perception of mirror symmetry: Role of shapes and corners

Cayla A. Bellagarda, J. Edwin Dickinson, Jason Bell, David R. Badcock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Visual mirror symmetry is a global feature that is dependent on specific low-level relationships between component elements. Initially conceptualized as virtual lines between paired elements, it has been suggested that higher-order structure between pairs of symmetric elements forming virtual four cornered shapes may also be important for strengthening the percept of mirror symmetry. We utilize corner elements, formed by joining two Gabor elements along a central midline creating vertices with variable internal angles, in a temporal integration paradigm. This allows us to specifically manipulate the presence and type of higher-order versus lower-order structure in patterns with symmetrically placed elements. We show a significant contribution of higher-order structure to the salience of visual symmetries compared with patterns with only lower-order structures. We also find that although we are more sensitive to patterns with higher-order structure, there is no difference in the temporal processing of higher-order versus lower-order patterns. These findings have important implications for existing spatial filter models of symmetry perception that rely on lower-order structures alone and reinforces the need for elaborated models that can more readily capture the complexities of real-world symmetries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2023


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