Visual processing of contour curvature was investigated by measuring increment thresholds for curvatures from 0.31 to 25.4 deg−1. Curvature discrimination was assessed for three classes of stimuli: simple curved contours, high-frequency bandpass-filtered contours, and low-pass-filtered contours. High-frequency bandpass filtering had no effect on discrimination at low curvatures and only a modest effect at high curvatures. In contrast, low-pass filtering caused substantial threshold elevations at all curvatures. Thus the data lead to the surprising conclusion that high-spatial-frequency, orientation-selective mechanisms dominate curvature processing over the entire range of curvatures tested, a conclusion at odds with previous suggestions that large, low-spatial-frequency filters are involved in analyzing low curvatures. The data are explained accurately by a two-process model for curvature extraction: at high curvatures the local-processing model proposed by Wilson [ J. Opt. Soc. Am. A. 2, 1191 ( 1985)] fits the data well, whereas at low curvatures orientations are compared at points displaced a fixed distance along the tangent to the curve.
© 1989 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: June 23, 1987
Manuscript Accepted: July 26, 1988
Published: January 1, 1989
Hugh R. Wilson and Whitman A. Richards, "Mechanisms of contour curvature discrimination," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 6, 106-115 (1989)