Humans can recognize objects and scenes in a small fraction of a second. The cascade of signals underlying rapid recognition might be disrupted by temporally jittering different parts of complex objects. Here we investigated the time course over which shape information can be integrated to allow for recognition of complex objects. We presented fragments of object images in an asynchronous fashion and behaviorally evaluated categorization performance. We observed that visual recognition was significantly disrupted by asynchronies of approximately 30 ms, suggesting that spatiotemporal integration begins to break down with even small deviations from simultaneity. However, moderate temporal asynchrony did not completely obliterate recognition; in fact, integration of visual shape information persisted even with an asynchrony of 100 ms. We describe the data with a concise model based on the dynamic reduction of uncertainty about what image was presented. These results emphasize the importance of timing in visual processing and provide strong constraints for the development of dynamical models of visual shape recognition.
Keywords: fragmented images; object recognition; temporal integration; temporal sensitivity; visual dynamics.