Edge-Region Grouping in Figure-Ground Organization and Depth Perception

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Edge-region grouping (ERG) is proposed as a unifying and previously unrecognized class of relational information that influences figure-ground organization and perceived depth across an edge. ERG occurs when the edge between two regions is differentially grouped with one region based on classic principles of similarity grouping. The ERG hypothesis predicts that the grouped side will tend to be perceived as the closer, figural region. Six experiments are reported that test the predictions of the ERG hypothesis for 6 similarity-based factors: common fate, blur similarity, color similarity, orientation similarity, proximity, and flicker synchrony. All 6 factors produce the predicted effects, although to different degrees. In a 7th experiment, the strengths of these figural/depth effects were found to correlate highly with the strength of explicit grouping ratings of the same visual displays. The relations of ERG to prior results in the literature are discussed, and possible reasons for ERG-based figural/depth effects are considered. We argue that grouping processes mediate at least some of the effects we report here, although ecological explanations are also likely to be relevant in the majority of cases.

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