Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1641–1649 | Cite as

Illusory contour perception in domestic dogs

  • Sarah-Elizabeth ByosiereEmail author
  • Philippe A. Chouinard
  • Tiffani J. Howell
  • Pauleen C. Bennett
Brief Report


One way to better understand how animals visually perceive their environment is to assess the way in which visual information is interpreted and adapted based on preconceptions. Domestic dogs represent a unique species in which to evaluate visual perception as recent findings suggest they may differ from humans and other animal species in terms of their susceptibility to geometric visual illusions. Dogs have demonstrated human-like, reversed, and null susceptibility depending on the type of illusion. To further evaluate how dogs perceive their environment, it is necessary to perform additional assessments of visual perception. One such assessment is the perceptual filling-in of figures, which may be invoked when presented with illusory contours. Six dogs were assessed on their perception of the Ehrenstein illusory contour illusion in a two-choice size-discrimination task. Dogs, as a group, demonstrated equivocal perception of illusory contours. Some individual dogs, however, demonstrated human-like perception of the subjective contours, providing preliminary evidence that this species is capable of perceiving illusory contour illusions, thereby improving the current understanding of canine visual perception capabilities. Additional assessments using alternative illusory contour illusions are needed to clarify these results and identify features that underpin the individual differences observed.


Dog Ehrenstein Illusion Perception Illusory contour 



We are grateful to Lynna Feng, Nicholas Rutter, and Jessica Woodhead for their help in previous training processes. We also thank Ron Wheeler for his assistance in the construction and design of our apparatus, and Davis Vorva for his expertise in program design. This study was carried out with the support of a La Trobe University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and a La Trobe University Full Fee Research Scholarship.

Open practices statement

The data and programs for this experiment are available upon request.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology and Public HealthLa Trobe UniversityBendigoAustralia

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