A Temporal Same-Object Advantage in the Tunnel Effect: Facilitated Change Detection for Persisting Objects

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Meaningful visual experience requires computations that identify objects as the same persisting individuals over time, motion, occlusion, and featural change. This article explores these computations in the tunnel effect: When an object moves behind an occluder, and then an object later emerges following a consistent trajectory, observers irresistibly perceive a persisting object, even when the pre- and postocclusion views contrast featurally. This article introduces a new change detection method for quantifying percepts of the tunnel effect. Observers had to detect color changes in displays where several objects oscillated behind occluders and occasionally changed color. Across comparisons with several types of spatiotemporal gaps, as well as manipulations of occlusion versus implosion, performance was better when objects' kinematics gave the impression of a persisting individual. The results reveal a temporal same-object advantage: better change detection across temporal scene fragments bound into the same persisting object representations. This suggests that persisting objects are the underlying units of visual memory.

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