Kinetic Depth Effect and Identification of Shape

George Sperling, Michael S. Landy, Barbara A. Dosher, Mark E. Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We introduce an objective shape-identification task for measuring the kinetic depth effect (KDE). A rigidly rotating surface consisting of hills and valleys on an otherwise flat ground was defined by 300 randomly positioned dots. On each trial, 1 of 53 shapes was presented; the observer's task was to identify the shape and its overall direction of rotation. Identification accuracy was an objective measure, with a low guessing base rate, of the observer's perceptual ability to extract 3D structure from 2D motion via KDE. (1) Objective accuracy data were consistent with previously obtained subjective rating judgments of depth and coherence. (2) Along with motion cues, rotating real 3D dot-defined shapes inevitably produced a cue of changing dot density. By shortening dot lifetimes to control dot density, we showed that changing density was neither necessary nor sufficient to account for accuracy; motion alone sufficed. (3) Our shape task was solvable with motion cues from the 6 most relevant locations. We extracted the dots from these locations and used them in a simplified 2D direction-labeling motion task with 6 perceptually flat flow fields. Subjects' performance in the 2D and 3D tasks was equivalent, indicating that the information processing capacity of KDE is not unique. (4) Our proposed structure-from-motion algorithm for the shape task first finds relative minima and maxima of local velocity and then assigns 3D depths proportional to velocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)826-840
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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