Figure-ground segregation as a dynamic interactive process
Mary Peterson, University of Arizona, U.S.A.
The Gestaltists and many followers held that figure-ground segregation occurs early in the course of processing before memories of object structure or category membership are accessed and that later, such memories are accessed for figures but not for grounds. Thus, figure-ground perception was explained within a serial hierarchical architecture in which information flows in a feedforward manner only and figural status gates what type of processing occurs for display regions. Brain imaging techniques (ERPs) as well as behavioral tests conducted with both brain-damaged and non-brain-damaged individuals support an alternative view -- that figure-ground perception takes place in a dynamical system in which properties of objects that might be perceived on opposite sides of borders are assessed in a fast pass of processing that reaches high levels; properties on opposite sides of borders compete; the winner is perceived as the shaped figure, and the loser is perceived as a shapeless ground.