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The Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions$
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Arthur G. Shapiro and Dejan Todorovic

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199794607

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794607.001.0001

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Ambiguous Figures Moving Forward

Ambiguous Figures Moving Forward

(p.663) Chapter 95 Ambiguous Figures Moving Forward
The Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions

Lori J. Bernstein

Oxford University Press

There is inherent ambiguity in visual proximal stimuli, yet only under special circumstances is this obvious. There are many explanations for how we so effortlessly disambiguate inherently ambiguous shape information. An ambiguous figure is a type of optical illusion in that it can give rise to multistable interpretations. Some famous examples of these types of two-dimensional figures include the face/vase and the Necker wire cube. This chapter reviews evidence showing that direction of motion impacts this process. Specifically, a moving ambiguous figure is more likely to be “seen” as the object that faces in the direction of perceived motion. This “heading effect” appears to hold up even when the motion is nonoptimal and is far from biologically accurate, as the accompanying demonstration shows. Some possible explanations for this effect are presented and insights from basic neuroscience, neuropsychological cases, and other behavioral studies are discussed.

Keywords:   ambiguous figures, direction of motion, heading effect, perceived motion, ambiguous shape

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