Rubin’s famous vase-face illusion is an ambiguous image that can be perceived either as a vase or as two faces in profile. Dr Nonie Finlayson and Victorita Neacsu published a new study investigating how this illusion depends on where in your visual field the image appears. Previous research by our lab and others had already shown that how visual images appear can vary dramatically between different locations in a way that is unique to each person – so that this constitutes something like a “perceptual fingerprint”. In Victorita’s MSc project, we showed that there is similar variability for ambiguous vase-face images: for a given location, a person may be more likely to report seeing faces while for another location they tend to see faces. In follow-up experiments, Nonie tested what potential mechanism could underlie this variability. Our findings suggest that this is fairly basic effect, related to how your vision ability differs between locations, rather than being due to complex functions like face perception, or cognitive abilities like interpreting the whole from its parts.
Finlayson, NJ, Neacsu, V, & Schwarzkopf, DS (2020). Spatial heterogeneity in bistable figure-ground perception. i-Perception 11(5): 1-16.