Concepts for a Dynamic Theory of Perceptual Organization: An Example from Apparent Movement

  • G. Schöner
  • H. Hock
Part of the Springer Series in Synergetics book series (SSSYN, volume 64)


To address the problem of cooperativity in coherent motion perception we investigate the hypothesis that perceptual organization is governed by dynamic laws that reside at the level of macroscopic perceptual variables. Theoretical concepts are provided to deal both with intrinsic tendencies of perceptual organization and the specificational power of the stimulus. The theory aims at (a) identifying lawful aspects of perception in relation to how percepts persist and how perceptual change comes about, and (b) providing operational language elements with which perceptual theories can be constructed in such a way as to enable direct experimental test of propositions about perceptual organization. A central idea is that temporal stability is an essential and non-redundant property of organized percepts. The validity of the conceptual framework can be evaluated by testing specific predictions for multistable percepts that include the occurrence of hysteresis and its dependence on rate of stimulus change, the loss of stability near points of perceptual change and characteristic switching time distributions for spontaneous reversals. We provide an exemplary model of the perceptual organization of apparent motion both to demonstrate how propositions about perceptual organization can be formed and evaluated and to critically test the theoretical framework through comparison of the theoretical predictions with recent experiments on the dynamic properties of multistable percepts. More generally, we discuss the conceptual consequences of the dynamic theory for the issues of categorization, invariance, and top-down processes in perception.


Switching Time Apparent Motion Dynamic Theory Perceptual Organization Perceptual Change 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Schöner
    • 1
  • H. Hock
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for NeuroinformaticsRuhr-University of BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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