The development of contour interpolation: Evidence from subjective contours

Bat Sheva Hadad, Daphne Maurer, Terri L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults are skilled at perceiving subjective contours in regions without any local image information (e.g., Ginsburg, 1975; Kanizsa, 1976). Here we examined the development of this skill and the effect thereon of the support ratio (i.e., the ratio of the physically specified contours to the total contour length). Children (6-, 9-, and 12-year-olds) and adults discriminated between fat and skinny shapes formed by subjective or luminance-defined contours. By 9 years of age, children were as sensitive as adults to small differences in luminance-defined contours, but not until 12 years of age were children as sensitive as adults in performing the same task with subjective contours. Remarkably, 6-year-olds' sensitivity to subjective contours was independent of the support ratio, unlike that of older children and adults. The results suggest that, during middle childhood, the interpolation of subjective contours becomes tied to the support ratio, so that contours that are more likely to reflect the contours of real objects (i.e., highly supported contours) are more easily interpolated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-176
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research ( MOP-36430 ). We thank Mohini Patel for her help in data collection. Some of these data were presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.


  • Children
  • Contour interpolation
  • Development
  • Shape formation
  • Subjective contours
  • Support ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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