Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane

Date:
March 30, 2014
Source:
University of California - Berkeley
Summary:
Ever notice how Harry Potter's T-shirt abruptly changes from a crewneck to a henley shirt in 'The Order of the Phoenix,' or how in 'Pretty Woman,' Julia Roberts' croissant inexplicably morphs into a pancake? Don't worry if you missed those continuity bloopers. Vision scientists have discovered an upside to the brain mechanism that can blind us to subtle changes in movies and in the real world.

Ever notice how Harry Potter's T-shirt changes from a crewneck to a henley shirt in the "Order of the Phoenix," or how in "Pretty Woman," Julia Roberts' croissant inexplicably morphs into a pancake? Don't worry if you missed those continuity bloopers. Vision scientists at UC Berkeley and MIT have discovered an upside to the brain mechanism that can blind us to subtle visual changes in the movies and in the real world.

They've discovered a "continuity field" in which we visually merge together similar objects seen within a 15-second time frame, hence the previously mentioned jump from crewneck to henley goes largely unnoticed. Unlike in the movies, objects in the real world don't spontaneously change from, say, a croissant to a pancake in a matter of seconds, so the continuity field is stabilizing what we see over time.

"The continuity field smoothes what would otherwise be a jittery perception of object features over time," said David Whitney, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study published today (March 30) in the journal, Nature Neuroscience.

"Essentially, it pulls together physically but not radically different objects to appear more similar to each other," Whitney added. "This is surprising because it means the visual system sacrifices accuracy for the sake of the continuous, stable perception of objects."

Conversely, without a continuity field, we may be hypersensitive to every visual fluctuation triggered by shadows, movement and myriad other factors. For example, faces and objects would appear to morph from moment to moment in an effect similar to being on hallucinogenic drugs, researchers said.

"The brain has learned that the real world usually doesn't change suddenly, and it applies that knowledge to make our visual experience more consistent from one moment to the next," said Jason Fischer, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and lead author of the study, which he conducted while he was a Ph.D. student in Whitney's Lab at UC Berkeley.

To establish the existence of a continuity field, the researchers had study participants view a series of bars, or gratings, on a computer screen. The gratings appeared at random angles once every five seconds.

Participants were instructed to adjust the angle of a white bar so that it matched the angle of each grating they just viewed. They repeated this task with hundreds of gratings positioned at different angles. The researchers found that instead of precisely matching the orientation of the grating, participants averaged out the angle of the three most recently viewed gratings.

"Even though the sequence of images was random, participants' perception of any given image was biased strongly toward the past several images that came before it," said Fischer, who calls this phenomenon "perceptual serial dependence."

In another experiment, researchers set the gratings far apart on the computer screen, and found that the participants did not merge together the angles when the objects were far apart. This suggests that the objects must be close together for the continuity effect to work.

For a comedic example of how we might see things if there were no continuity field, watch the commercial for MIO squirt juice.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Yasmin Anwar. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Berkeley. "Why we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140330151541.htm>.
University of California - Berkeley. (2014, March 30). Why we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140330151541.htm
University of California - Berkeley. "Why we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140330151541.htm (accessed August 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins