Visual mechanisms governing the perception of auto-stereograms


Dr J Antonio Aznar-Casanova, Faculty of Psychology, University of Barcelona, Passeig de la Vall d'Hebron, 171, E08035, Barcelona, SPAIN. E-mail:


Background:  Single image random dot stereograms (SIRDS) have been used to study diverse visual parameters and skills. The aim of the present study was to identify the main optometric factors involved in the perception of SIRDS and to obtain a discriminant model to categorise our participants in terms of their skill in perceiving SIRDS.

Methods:  Response time was determined to assess the ability of 69 participants to perceive the hidden three-dimensional shape in an auto-stereogram presented under controlled conditions, whereupon three skill level groups were defined. The same participants were administered a battery of optometric tests to evaluate various aspects of accommodation and convergence, as well as stereopsis and phoria. Linear discriminant analysis, which served to examine the relationship between response times and the evaluated visual parameters and skills, provided a set of discriminant functions (or model), thus allowing for the categorisation of participants according to their skill to perceive SIRDS.

Results:  Two discriminant functions were obtained, which allowed for an overall predictive accuracy of 66.67 per cent (p = 0.024), with a higher predictive accuracy for groups 1 (minimum time less than 10 seconds, 78.26 per cent) and 2 (minimum time greater than 10 seconds, 75.86 per cent) than for group 3 (SIRDS not perceived, 35.29 per cent). Stereoacuity, negative relative convergence, phoria at near and, to a lesser extent, the accommodative convergence and accommodation ratio were found to be the most relevant discriminant variables, although between-group statistically significant differences were only disclosed for stereoacuity (p = 0.001) and negative relative convergence (p = 0.003).

Conclusion:  The ability to perceive SIRDS was related to many visual parameters and skills, including, but not limited to, stereoacuity and negative relative convergence. It is uncertain whether SIRDS might be considered a useful tool in clinical practice.