Psychophysics of Appearance Laboratory

What are the mechanisms that generate our rich and stable visual world from the highly ambiguous and ever-changing light pattern falling on the retina? How do we segment, select, discard and compress information? How do interactions between prior experience, knowledge, biases and current input shape the perception of our environment and determine the scope of what we experience? Why do we experience the world the way we do?

 

In the Psychophysics of Appearance Lab, we investigate these and related questions, primarily in the realm of visual perception. For example, to understand information compression in the visual brain, we investigate 'redundancy masking', a phenomenon we recently discovered, in which the number of perceived items is systematically lower than the number of presented items, even when as few as three items are presented. 

 

To quantify visual appearance, we develop appearance-based methods that allow us to measure perception beyond typical categorizations. For example, by decomposing objects into parts and quantifying deviations from veridical perception, we obtain detailed mappings between physical stimuli and visual 'appearance spaces', allowing for detailed accounts of visual experience. 

 

A long-term goal is to better understand the interplay of different parts of the perceptual-cognitive machinery, and how basic perceptual and cognitive process are related to thinking, reasoning, and behavior. In the realm of numerical cognition, we recently found that the topology of spatial vision plays a significant role in numerosity estimation. Our investigations of ensemble emotion perception showed that ensemble coding may fail completely when fixating incongruent information. We frequently work with artists, investigating questions at the intersection of art, visual perception, and the functions of the human mind in general.