Competition-strength-dependent ground suppression in figure-ground perception

Elizabeth Salvagio, Laura Cacciamani, Mary A. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Figure-ground segregation is modeled as inhibitory competition between objects that might be perceived on opposite sides of borders. The winner is the figure; the loser is suppressed, and its location is perceived as shapeless ground. Evidence of ground suppression would support inhibitory competition models and would contribute to explaining why grounds are shapeless near borders shared with figures, yet such evidence is scarce. We manipulated whether competition from potential objects on the ground side of figures was high (i. e., portions of familiar objects were potentially present there) or low (novel objects were potentially present). We predicted that greater competition would produce more ground suppression. The results of two experiments in which suppression was assessed via judgments of the orientation of target bars confirmed this prediction; a third experiment showed that ground suppression is short-lived. Our findings support inhibitory competition models of figure assignment, in particular, and models of visual perception entailing feedback, in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)964-978
Number of pages15
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Competition
  • Contours
  • Figure-ground perception
  • Inhibition
  • Perceptual organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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