Aging and the integration of orientation and position in shape perception
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The current experiments examined the effect of healthy aging on the integration of orientation and position information in shape perception. Following Day and Loffler (2009), conflicting contours were created by sampling the orientations of one shape (e.g., a rounded pentagon) with Gabors, and positioning them on the circumference of a different shape (e.g., a circle). In Experiment 1, subjects judged whether the conflicting contour looked more circular than a rounded pentagon of varying amplitude, which allowed us to estimate the perceived shape of the conflicting contour. The relative amount of position and orientation information was manipulated by varying the number of Gabors comprising the target contour. Orientation information dominated the percept for contours sampled with 15-40 elements, producing a strong shape illusion, but position information determined the shape with denser sampling. The magnitude of this orientation dominance effect was equal in younger and older subjects across all sampling levels. In Experiment 2, subjects discriminated five contours that differed in orientation and/or position information. Both groups showed poor discrimination between conflicting contours and their perceptually equivalent radial frequency patterns, confirming the main finding of Experiment 1. In addition, older subjects showed worse discrimination between two noncircular radial frequency patterns than younger subjects. In sum, integration of orientation and position information in shape perception is preserved with aging; however, older adults are less able to make fine shape discriminations between noncircular sampled contours.
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