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Abstract

Previous research, in which static figures were used, showed that the ability to perceive illusory contours emerges around 7 months of age. However, recently, evidence has suggested that 2–3-month-old infants are able to perceive illusory contours when motion information is available (Johnson & Mason, 2002; Otsuka & Yamaguchi, 2003). The present study was aimed at investigating whether even newborns might perceive kinetic illusory contours when a motion easily detected by the immature newborn's visual system (i.e. stroboscopic motion) is used. In Experiment 1, using a preference looking technique, newborns’ perception of kinetic illusory contours was explored using a Kanizsa figure in a static and in a kinetic display. The results showed that newborns manifest a preference for the illusory contours only in the kinetic, but not in the static, condition. In Experiment 2, using an habituation technique, newborns were habituated to a moving shape that was matched with the background in terms of random-texture-surface; thus the recovery of the shape was possible relying only on kinetic information. The results showed that infants manifested a novelty preference when presented with luminance-defined familiar and novel shapes. Altogether these findings provide evidence that motion enhances (Experiment 1) and sometimes is sufficient (Experiment 2) to induce newborns’ perception of illusory contours.