Inhibitory competition in figure-ground perception: Context and Convexity

Mary A. Peterson, Elizabeth Salvagio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Convexity has long been considered a potent cue as to which of two regions on opposite sides of an edge is the shaped figure. Experiment 1 shows that for a single edge, there is only a weak bias toward seeing the figure on the convex side. Experiments 1-3 show that the bias toward seeing the convex side as figure increases as the number of edges delimiting alternating convex and concave regions increases, provided that the concave regions are homogeneous in color. The results of Experiments 2 and 3 rule out a probability summation explanation for these context effects. Taken together the results of Experiments 1-3 show that the homogeneity versus heterogeneity of the convex regions is irrelevant. Experiment 4 shows that homogeneity of alternating regions is not sufficient for context effects; a cue that favors the perception of the interveffing regions as figures is necessary. Thus homogeneity alone does not alone operate as a background cue. We interpret our results within a model of figure-ground perception in which shape properties on opposite sides of an edge compete for representation and the competitive strength of weak competitors is further reduced when they are homogeneous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number16
StatePublished - Dec 15 2008


  • Competition
  • Context
  • Convexity
  • Figure-ground perception
  • Suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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