Perception of Kinetic Illusory Contours by Two-Month-Old Infants


  • Scott P. Johnson,

  • Uschi Mason


Perception of kinetic illusory contours by 2-month-old infants was explored with sparse random-dot displays depicting an illusory shape against a background. In Experiment 1, 24 infants were habituated to a shape specified by accretion and deletion of background texture and relative motion, and exhibited a novelty preference when presented with luminance-defined familiar and novel shapes. Subsequent experiments explored kinetic cues in isolation. In Experiment 2 (n= 24), relative motion information was removed, leaving accretion and deletion of texture and luminance cues, and in Experiment 3 (n= 24), only relative motion information was available. In both these experiments the novelty preference obtained in Experiment 1 was replicated. Results from a control condition (n= 12) mitigated against the likelihood of an inherent preference for either of the test shapes. These findings reveal an early capacity to perceive shape solely from kinetic information, and suggest a mechanism geared toward spatiotemporal boundary formation that is functional shortly after birth. Theories of development of edge and motion discrimination are discussed.