Sovrano V A, Bisazza A, 2009, "Perception of subjective contours in fish" Perception 38(4) 579 – 590
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Perception of subjective contours in fish
Valeria Anna Sovrano, Angelo Bisazza
Received 7 July 2008, in revised form 30 September 2008
Abstract. The ability of fish to perceive subjective (or illusory) contours, ie contours that lack a physical counterpart in terms of luminance contrast gradients, was investigated. In the first experiment, redtail splitfins (Xenotoca eiseni), family Goodeidae, were trained to discriminate between a geometric figure (a triangle or a square) on various backgrounds and a background without any figure. Thereafter, the fish performed test trials in which illusory squares or triangles were obtained by (i) interruptions of a background of diagonal lines, (ii) phase-shifting of a background of diagonal lines, and (iii) pacmen spatially arranged to induce perception of Kanizsa subjective surfaces. In all three conditions, fish seemed to generalise their responses to stimuli perceived as subjective contours by humans. Fish chose, correctly, squares or triangles made of interrupted or phase-shifted diagonal lines from uniform backgrounds of diagonal lines, as well as illusory square or triangle Kanizsa figures from figures in which the inducing pacmen were scrambled. In the second experiment, fish were trained to discriminate between a vertical and a horizontal bar with luminance contrast gradients, and then tested with vertically and horizontally oriented illusory bars, created either through interruption or spatial phase-shift of inducing diagonal lines. Fish appeared to be able to generalise the orientation discrimination to illusory contours. These results demonstrate that redtail splitfins are capable of perceiving illusory contours.
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