Visual search reveals a critical component to shape

James Edwin Dickinson, Krystle Haley, Vanessa Kathleen Bowden, David Russel Badcock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Objects are often identified by the shape of their contours. In this study visual search tasks were used to reveal a visual dimension critical to the analysis of the shape of a boundary-defined area. Points of maximum curvature on closed paths are important for shape coding and it was shown here that target patterns are readily identified amongst distractors if the angle subtended by adjacent curvature maxima at the target pattern’s centre differs from that created in the distractors. A search asymmetry, indicated by a difference in performance in the visual search task when the roles of target and distractor patterns are reversed, was found when the critical subtended angle was only present in one of the patterns. Performance for patterns with the same subtended angle but differing local orientation and curvature was poor, demonstrating insensitivity to differences in these local features of the patterns. These results imply that the discrimination of objects by the shape of their boundaries relies on the relative positions of their curvature maxima rather than the local properties of the boundary from which these positions are derived.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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