Perceptual grouping in the Ternus display: evidence for an 'association field' in apparent motion

Vision Res. 2002 Apr;42(8):1005-16. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(02)00021-4.


We present psychophysical experiments designed to reveal the role of facilitative contour interactions (the so-called 'association field') in apparent motion. We use the Ternus display (a trio of horizontally aligned elements oscillating in apparent motion). This display is perceived in 'element' motion when interframe intervals (IFIs) are short, and in 'group' motion when IFIs are long. Using Gabor elements arranged collinearly or in parallel, IFI is varied to find group motion thresholds. Consistent with a role for collinearity in perceptual grouping, thresholds are lower for collinear displays. The collinear vs. parallel comparison is made while manipulating contrast, spatial frequency, eccentricity, phase, orientation jitter and element separation. Results show a clear effect of contrast not observed in lateral masking paradigms or in 'pathfinder' stimuli, with higher contrast promoting within-frame grouping, and evidence of facilitatory interactions among parallel elements (although over a smaller scale). The tendency for collinear displays to group more than parallel displays declined with eccentricity with no clear difference evident at 12 deg. These changes in group motion thresholds indicate changing association strengths among the elements and is accounted for in terms of an association field. Alternative accounts in terms of second-order collector units or visible persistence are considered but are not supported by the data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Orientation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Visual Fields / physiology