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The perception and misperception of optical defocus, shading, and shape

  1. Scott WJ Mooney  Is a corresponding author
  2. Phillip J Marlow
  3. Barton Anderson
  1. The University of Sydney, Australia
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e48214 doi: 10.7554/eLife.48214

Abstract

The human visual system is tasked with recovering the different physical sources of optical structure that generate our retinal images. Separate research has focused on understanding how the visual system estimates (a) environmental sources of image structure and (b) blur induced by the eye's limited focal range, but little is known about how the visual system distinguishes environmental sources from optical defocus. Here, we present evidence that this is a fundamental perceptual problem and provide insights into how and when the visual system succeeds and fails in solving it. We show that fully focused surface shading can be misperceived as defocused and that optical blur can be misattributed to the material properties and shape of surfaces. We further reveal how these misperceptions depend on the relationship between shading gradients and sharp contours, and conclude that computations of blur are inherently linked to computations of surface shape, material, and illumination.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Scott WJ Mooney

    School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    For correspondence
    scm2011@med.cornell.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-0094-7638
  2. Phillip J Marlow

    School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Barton Anderson

    School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

Commonwealth of Australia (Australian Postgraduate Award)

  • Scott WJ Mooney

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: Informed consent and consent to publish was obtained from each participant in accordance with experimental protocol 2012/2759 approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) at the University of Sydney.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Roland W Fleming, University of Giessen, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: May 5, 2019
  2. Accepted: July 11, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 12, 2019 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2019, Mooney et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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