• 3D shape perception;
  • Depth cues;
  • Contours;
  • Simplicity constraints


Two experiments were performed to explore the mechanisms of human 3D shape perception. In Experiment 1, the subjects’ performance in a shape constancy task in the presence of several cues (edges, binocular disparity, shading and texture) was tested. The results show that edges and binocular disparity, but not shading or texture, are important in 3D shape perception. Experiment 2 tested the effect of several simplicity constraints, such as symmetry and planarity on subjects’ performance in a shape constancy task. The 3D shapes were represented by edges or vertices only. The results show that performance with or without binocular disparity is at chance level, unless the 3D shape is symmetric and/or its faces are planar. In both experiments, there was a correlation between the subjects’ performance with and without binocular disparity. Our study suggests that simplicity constraints, not depth cues, play the primary role in both monocular and binocular 3D shape perception. These results are consistent with our computational model of 3D shape recovery.