Top-down influences on stereoscopic depth-perception

Isabelle Bülthoff, Heinrich Bülthoff, Pawan Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


The interaction between depth perception and object recognition has important implications for the nature of mental object representations and models of hierarchical organization of visual processing. It is often believed that the computation of depth influences subsequent high-level object recognition processes, and that depth processing is an early vision task that is largely immune to 'top-down' object-specific influences, such as object recognition. Here we present experimental evidence that challenges both these assumptions in the specific context of stereoscopic depthperception. We have found that observers' recognition of familiar dynamic three-dimensional (3D) objects is unaffected even when the objects' depth structure is scrambled, as long as their two-dimensional (2D) projections are unchanged. Furthermore, the observers seem perceptually unaware of the depth anomalies introduced by scrambling. We attribute the latter result to a top-down recognition-based influence whereby expectations about a familiar object's 3D structure override the true stereoscopic information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-257
Number of pages4
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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