Parovel G, Vezzani S, 2002, "Mirror symmetry opposes splitting of chromatically homogeneous surfaces" Perception 31(6) 693 – 709
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Mirror symmetry opposes splitting of chromatically homogeneous surfaces
Giulia Parovel, Stefano Vezzani
Received 29 March 2001, in revised form 9 January 2002
Abstract. Chromatically homogeneous surfaces can be seen as single figures but also as two or more overlapping figures. Local factors such as relatability have been proposed in order to explain perception of two or more figures (Kellman and Shipley, 1991 Cognitive Psychology 23 141 - 221). However, even when these factors are at work, there are conditions favouring the perception of a single figure, which have not been explored so far. Here we propose that one such factor is the mirror symmetry of the surface. Three experiments were designed to test: (a) the main hypothesis, that mirror symmetry enhances perception of a single figure; (b) the role of orientation; (c) the effect of the number of axes of symmetry. The results show that (i) there is a good general correlation between mirror symmetry and perception of a single figure; (ii) vertical and horizontal axes of symmetry are the most effective; and (iii) the more axes of symmetry a surface has, the more likely is the perception of a single figure. These results suggest that mirror symmetry is an important factor in the perception of chromatically homogeneous displays. Some explanations are discussed, particularly one based on the rejection-of-coincidence principle [Rock, 1983 The Logic of Perception (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)], and a version of the minimum principle in which the strength of the global solution depends on symmetry, whereas the strength of the splitting solution depends on the strength of local factors. In brief, global and local factors compete in determining the perceptual outcome in chromatically homogeneous surfaces.
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