Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 225, Issue 2, pp 277–289 | Cite as

Exploiting object constancy: effects of active exploration and shape morphing on similarity judgments of novel objects

Research Article


Humans are experts at shape processing. This expertise has been learned and fine tuned by actively manipulating and perceiving thousands of objects during development. Therefore, shape processing possesses an active component and a perceptual component. Here, we investigate both components in six experiments in which participants view and/or interact with novel, parametrically defined 3D objects using a touch-screen interface. For probing shape processing, we use a similarity rating task. In Experiments 1–3, we show that active manipulation leads to a better perceptual reconstruction of the physical parameter space than judging rotating objects, or passively viewing someone else’s exploration pattern. In Experiment 4, we exploit object constancy—the fact that the visual system assumes that objects do not change their identity during manipulation. We show that slow morphing of an object during active manipulation systematically biases similarity ratings—despite the participants being unaware of the morphing. Experiments 5 and 6 investigate the time course of integrating shape information by restricting the morphing to the first and second half of the trial only. Interestingly, the results indicate that participants do not seem to integrate shape information beyond 5 s of exploration time. Finally, Experiment 7 uses a secondary task that suggests that the previous results are not simply due to lack of attention during the later parts of the trial. In summary, our results demonstrate the advantage of active manipulation for shape processing and indicate a continued, perceptual integration of complex shape information within a time window of a few seconds during object interactions.


Similarity judgments Object morphing Active exploration View integration Novel objects Object recognition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, Cognitive Systems LabKorea UniversitySeongbuk-gu, SeoulKorea

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