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Open Access Open Badges Research

Evaluating the contribution of shape attributes to recognition using the minimal transient discrete cue protocol

Ernest Greene1* and R Todd Ogden2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, Laboratory for Neurometric Research, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-1061, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10032, USA

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2012, 8:53  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-8-53

Published: 12 November 2012


Subjects were tested for their ability to identify objects that were represented by an array of dots that marked the major contours, usually only the outer boundary. Each dot was briefly flashed to make its position known, and a major variable was the time interval that was required to flash all the dots for a given shape. Recognition declined as the total time for display of the dot inventory was increased. Each shape was shown to a given subject only once and it was either recognized -- named – or not. Although the recorded response was binary, a large number of subjects was tested, which made it possible to derive regression functions and thus specify an intercept and slope for each shape. Shapes differed substantially in their slopes, which is likely due to the amount of redundant information provided by neighboring dots. Indices of shape attributes were also derived, specifically Attneave’s indices of complexity, mean curvature, inflection count, and symmetry. Three of the four shape attributes were significantly related to intercept and slope levels, but none made a substantial contribution. This suggests that these attributes are not essential properties that define shapes and allow for recognition.

Shape recognition; Contour attributes; Shape encoding