There have been numerous attempts to explain the enigma of autism, but existing neurocognitive theories often provide merely a refined description of 1 cluster of symptoms. Here we argue that deficits in executive functioning, theory of mind, and central coherence can all be understood as the consequence of a core deficit in the flexibility with which people with autism spectrum disorder can process violations to their expectations. More formally we argue that the human mind processes information by making and testing predictions and that the errors resulting from violations to these predictions are given a uniform, inflexibly high weight in autism spectrum disorder. The complex, fluctuating nature of regularities in the world and the stochastic and noisy biological system through which people experience it require that, in the real world, people not only learn from their errors but also need to (meta-)learn to sometimes ignore errors. Especially when situations (e.g., social) or stimuli (e.g., faces) become too complex or dynamic, people need to tolerate a certain degree of error in order to develop a more abstract level of representation. Starting from an inability to flexibly process prediction errors, a number of seemingly core deficits become logically secondary symptoms. Moreover, an insistence on sameness or the acting out of stereotyped and repetitive behaviors can be understood as attempts to provide a reassuring sense of predictive success in a world otherwise filled with error. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
In 1912, Max Wertheimer published his paper on phi motion, widely recognized as the start of Gestalt psychology. Because of its continued relevance in modern psychology, this centennial anniversary is an excellent opportunity to take stock of what Gestalt psychology has offered and how it has changed since its inception. We first introduce the key findings and ideas in the Berlin school of Gestalt psychology, and then briefly sketch its development, rise, and fall. Next, we discuss its empirical and conceptual problems, and indicate how they are addressed in contemporary research on perceptual grouping and figure-ground organization. In particular, we review the principles of grouping, both classical (e.g., proximity, similarity, common fate, good continuation, closure, symmetry, parallelism) and new (e.g., synchrony, common region, element and uniform connectedness), and their role in contour integration and completion. We then review classic and new image-based principles of figure-ground organization, how it is influenced by past experience and attention, and how it relates to shape and depth perception. After an integrated review of the neural mechanisms involved in contour grouping, border-ownership, and figure-ground perception, we conclude by evaluating what modern vision science has offered compared to traditional Gestalt psychology, whether we can speak of a Gestalt revival, and where the remaining limitations and challenges lie. A better integration of this research tradition with the rest of vision science requires further progress regarding the conceptual and theoretical foundations of the Gestalt approach, which will be the focus of a second review paper.
articlesThe capacity to categorize stimuli is fundamental to all living organisms 1,2 . Theories of categorization agree upon the importance of the similarity between stimuli to account for many aspects of categorization performance  . However, it is not straightforward to compute the degree of similarity between stimuli that can vary across a high number of dimensions, like complex shapes. Fortunately, the similarities among a set of complex stimuli can often be described in a more compact way  . Indeed, stimuli from many behaviorally relevant sets can be represented in a low-dimensional representation space in which the proximity between stimuli is related to their similarity. For example, by presenting the randomly ordered shapes of Fig. 1d in a particular order (Fig. 1a-c), the similarities can be easily described by a twodimensional square-like configuration. Several behavioral studies that have varied complex shape differences parametrically revealed that primates are able to represent the similarities between shapes in a low-dimensional representation space without ever seeing these stimuli in their parametric configuration 9-12 .Here we aim to study directly the neural basis of these lowdimensional representation spaces. Object recognition and categorization in macaques is thought to depend on the inferotemporal cortex (IT) 13,14 . Single IT neurons are selective for moderately complex object features 15 , but several studies have found little relationship between the similarities between complex objects and the responses of single IT neurons 16,17 . However, one needs to manipulate shape similarity parametrically to investigate how the responses of IT neurons to complex stimuli are related to the proximity of these stimuli in a low-dimensional space. Thus, we investigated whether the response pattern across a population of IT neurons can reveal a low-dimensional and faithful representation of shape similarity using parameterized shapes. Behavioral studies with parameterized shapes have shown that the similarities among these complex stimuli can be represented using a low number of dimensions. Using psychophysical measurements and single-cell recordings in macaque inferotemporal (IT) cortex, we found an agreement between low-dimensional parametric configurations of shapes and the representation of shape similarity at the behavioral and neuronal level. The shape configurations, computed from both the perceived and neuron-based similarities, revealed a low number of dimensions and contained the same stimulus order as the parametric configurations. However, at a metric level, the behavioral and neural representations deviated consistently from the parametric configurations. These findings suggest an ordinally faithful but metrically biased representation of shape similarity in IT.As the analysis of the visual input in the visual system is highly nonlinear, the neuronal representation space could deviate from the configurations in parameter space in several ways. Previous psychophysical stu...
Our first review paper on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of Gestalt psychology focused on perceptual grouping and figure-ground organization. It concluded that further progress requires a reconsideration of the conceptual and theoretical foundations of the Gestalt approach, which is provided here. In particular, we review contemporary formulations of holism within an information-processing framework, allowing for operational definitions (e.g., integral dimensions, emergent features, configural superiority, global precedence, primacy of holistic/configural properties) and a refined understanding of its psychological implications (e.g., at the level of attention, perception, and decision). We also review four lines of theoretical progress regarding the law of Prägnanz—the brain’s tendency of being attracted towards states corresponding to the simplest possible organization, given the available stimulation. The first considers the brain as a complex adaptive system and explains how self-organization solves the conundrum of trading between robustness and flexibility of perceptual states. The second specifies the economy principle in terms of optimization of neural resources, showing that elementary sensors working independently to minimize uncertainty can respond optimally at the system level. The third considers how Gestalt percepts (e.g., groups, objects) are optimal given the available stimulation, with optimality specified in Bayesian terms. Fourth, Structural Information Theory explains how a Gestaltist visual system that focuses on internal coding efficiency yields external veridicality as a side-effect. To answer the fundamental question of why things look as they do, a further synthesis of these complementary perspectives is required.
What does an individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) perceive first: the forest or the trees? In spite of 30 years of research and influential theories like the weak central coherence (WCC) theory and the enhanced perceptual functioning (EPF) account, the interplay of local and global visual processing in ASD remains only partly understood. Research findings vary in indicating a local processing bias or a global processing deficit, and often contradict each other. We have applied a formal meta-analytic approach and combined 56 articles that tested about 1,000 ASD participants and used a wide range of stimuli and tasks to investigate local and global visual processing in ASD. Overall, results show no enhanced local visual processing nor a deficit in global visual processing. Detailed analysis reveals a difference in the temporal pattern of the local-global balance, that is, slow global processing in individuals with ASD. Whereas task-dependent interaction effects are obtained, gender, age, and IQ of either participant groups seem to have no direct influence on performance. Based on the overview of the literature, suggestions are made for future research.
This paper reviews empirical evidence for the detection of visual symmetries and explanatory theories and models of symmetry detection. First, mirror symmetry is compared to other types of symmetry. The idea that symmetry detection is preattentive is then discussed and other roles that attention might play in symmetry detection are considered. The major part of the article consists of a critical examination of the extensive literature about the effects on symmetry detection of several major factors such as the orientation of the symmetry axis, the location of the stimulus in the visual field, grouping, and perturbations. Constraints on plausible models of symmetry detection are derived from this rich database and several proposals are evaluated against it. As a result of bringing this research together, open questions and remaining gaps to be filled by future research are identified.
Humans rely heavily on shape similarity among objects for object categorization and identification. Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that a large region in human occipitotemporal cortex processes the shape of meaningful as well as unfamiliar objects. Here, we investigate whether the functional organization of this region as measured with fMRI is related to perceived shape similarity. We found that unfamiliar object classes that are rated as having a similar shape were associated with a very similar response pattern distributed across object-selective cortex, whereas object classes that were rated as being very different in shape were associated with a more different response pattern. Human observers, as well as object-selective cortex, were very sensitive to differences in shape features of the objects such as straight versus curved versus "spiky" edges, more so than to differences in overall shape envelope. Response patterns in retinotopic areas V1, V2, and V4 were not found to be related to perceived shape. The functional organization in area V3 was partially related to perceived shape but without a stronger sensitivity for shape features relative to overall shape envelope. Thus, for unfamiliar objects, the organization of human object-selective cortex is strongly related to perceived shape, and this shape-based organization emerges gradually throughout the object vision pathway.
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