Although much research has investigated the visual development of lower (local) and higher levels (global) of processing in isolation, less is known about the developmental interactions between mechanisms mediating early- and intermediate-level vision. The objective of this study was to evaluate the development of intermediate-level vision by assessing the ability to discriminate circular shapes (global) whose contour was defined by different local attributes: luminance and texture. School-aged children, adolescents, and adults were asked to discriminate a deformed circle (radial frequency patterns or RFP) from a circle. RFPs varied as a function of (a) number of bumps or curvatures (radial frequency of three, five, and 10) and (b) the physical attribute (luminance or texture) that defined the contour. Deformation thresholds were measured for each radial frequency and attribute condition. In general, results indicated that when compared to adolescents and adults children performed worse only when luminance-defined shapes had fewer curvatures (i.e., three and five), but for texture-defined shapes, children performed worse across all types of radial frequencies (three, five, and 10). This suggests that sensitivity to global shapes mediated by intermediate level vision is differentially affected by the type of local information defining the global shape at different periods of development.
Keywords: intermediate vision; low-level vision; spatial vision; typical development.