Panoramic Uncertainty in Vertical Perception

Front Integr Neurosci. 2021 Nov 17;15:738768. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2021.738768. eCollection 2021.


Judgments of the orientation of a visual line with respect to earth vertical are affected by panoramic visual cues. This is illustrated by the rod-and-frame effect (RFE), the finding that the perceived orientation of a luminous rod is biased by the orientation of a surrounding squared frame. In this study, we tested how the uncertainty of frame orientation affects the RFE by asking upright or tilted participants to psychometrically judge the orientation of a briefly flashed rod contained within either a circular frame, a squared frame, or either of two intermediate frame forms, called squircles, presented in various orientations. Results showed a cyclical modulation of frame-induced bias across the range of the square and squircular frame orientations. The magnitude of this bias increased with increasing squaredness of the frame, as if the more unequivocal the orientation cues of the frame, the larger the reliance on them for rod orientation judgments. These findings are explained with a Bayesian optimal integration model in which participants flexibly weigh visual panoramic cues, depending on their orientation reliability, and non-visual cues in the perception of vertical.

Keywords: Bayesian; multisensory integration (MSI); rod-and-frame; subjective visual vertical (SVV); vestibular; vision.