Evidence for similar early but not late representation of possible and impossible objects

Erez Freud, Bat Sheva Hadad, Galia Avidan, Tzvi Ganel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The perceptual processes that mediate the ability to efficiently represent object 3D structure are still not fully understood. The current study was aimed to shed light on these processes by utilizing spatially possible and impossible objects that could not be created in real 3D space. Despite being perceived as exceptionally unusual, impossible objects still possess fundamental Gestalt attributes and valid local depth cues that may support their initial successful representation. Based on this notion and on recent findings from our lab, we hypothesized that the initial representation of impossible objects would involve common mechanisms to those mediating typical object perception while the perceived differences between possible and impossible objects would emerge later along the processing hierarchy. In Experiment 1, participants preformed same/different classifications of two markers superimposed on a display containing two objects (possible or impossible). Faster reaction times were observed for displays in which the markers were superimposed on the same object ("object-based benefit"). Importantly, this benefit was similar for possible and impossible objects, suggesting that the representations of the two object categories rely on similar perceptual organization processes. Yet, responses for impossible objects were slower compared to possible objects. Experiment 2 was designed to examine the origin of this effect. Participants classified the location of two markers while exposure duration was manipulated. A similar pattern of performance was found for possible and impossible objects for the short exposure duration, with differences in accuracy between these two types of objects emerging only for longer exposure durations. Overall, these findings provide evidence that the representation of object structure relies on a multi-level process and that object impossibility selectively impairs the rendering of fine-detailed description of object structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number94
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • 3D structure
  • Coarse-to-fine
  • Impossible objects
  • Object recognition
  • Object-based attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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