Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, is the co-author of “Non-Bayesian Contour Synthesis” published in Volume 21, Issue 6 of Current Biology, March 2011. The authors studied how our visual system ‘fills in the gaps’ when looking at interrupted or partially obscured shapes.
The reports presents new motion displays that depict simple occlusion sequences. These displays elicit vivid percepts of illusory contours. Unlike most illusory contours, the contours in these displays are “unnecessary”: they don’t help us make sense of the information in the image. The new findings challenge common models that explain visual perception in terms of our brains ‘seeing’ the most optimal and probable thing.
Barth’s research is featured in a March 30 University of Sydney article titled “Irrational eyes: seeing curves that aren’t there.” Videos of the illusory contour displays are embedded in the article.