Natural statistics of depth edges modulate perceptual stability

Zeynep Başgöze, David N. White, Johannes Burge, Emily A. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Binocular fusion relies on matching points in the two eyes that correspond to the same physical feature in the world; however, not all world features are binocularly visible. Near depth edges, some regions of a scene are often visible to only one eye (so-called half occlusions). Accurate detection of these monocularly visible regions is likely to be important for stable visual perception. If monocular regions are not detected as such, the visual system may attempt to binocularly fuse non-corresponding points, which can result in unstable percepts. We investigated the hypothesis that the visual system capitalizes on statistical regularities associated with depth edges in natural scenes to aid binocular fusion and facilitate perceptual stability. By sampling from a large set of stereoscopic natural images with co-registered distance information, we found evidence that monocularly visible regions near depth edges primarily result from background occlusions. Accordingly, monocular regions tended to be more visually similar to the adjacent binocularly visible background region than to the adjacent binocularly visible foreground. Consistent with our hypothesis, perceptual experiments showed that perception tended to be more stable when the image properties of the depth edge were statistically more likely given the probability of occurrence in natural scenes (i.e., when monocular regions were more visually similar to the binocular background). The generality of these results was supported by a parametric study with simulated environments. Exploiting regularities in natural environments may allow the visual system to facilitate fusion and perceptual stability when both binocular and monocular regions are visible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Steve Cholewiak for equipment assistance. EAC and ZB were supported by Google. JB and DNW were supported by a National Institutes of Health grant (R01-EY028571) from the National Eye Institute and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. JB was also supported by startup funds from the University of Pennsylvania.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Inc.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Binocular fusion
  • Natural image statistics
  • Perceptual stability

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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