Vertical Disparity, Egocentric Distance and Stereoscopic Depth Constancy: A New Interpretation
There has long been a problem concerning the presence in the visual cortex of binocularly activated cells that are selective for vertical stimulus disparities because it is generally believed that only horizontal disparities contribute to stereoscopic depth perception. The accepted view is that stereoscopic depth estimates are only relative to the fixation point and that independent information from an extraretinal source is needed to scale for absolute or egocentric distance. Recently, however, theoretical computations have shown that egocentric distance can be estimated directly from vertical disparities without recourse to extraretinal sources. There has been little impetus to follow up these computations with experimental observations, because the vertical disparities that normally occur between the images in the two eyes have always been regarded as being too small to be of significance for visual perception and because experiments have consistently shown that our conscious appreciation of egocentric distance is rather crude and unreliable. Nevertheless, the veridicality of stereoscopic depth constancy indicates that accurate distance information is available to the visual system and that the information about egocentric distance and horizontal disparity are processed together so as to continually recalibrate the horizontal disparity values for different absolute distances. Computations show that the recalibration can be based directly on vertical disparities without the need for any intervening estimates of absolute distance. This may partly explain the relative crudity of our conscious appreciation of egocentric distance. From published data it has been possible to calculate the magnitude of the vertical disparities that the human visual system must be able to discriminate in order for depth constancy to have the observed level of veridicality From published data on the induced effect it has also been possible to calculate the threshold values for the detection of vertical disparities by the visual system. These threshold values are smaller than those needed to provide for the recalibration of the horizontal disparities in the interests of veridical depth constancy An outline is given of the known properties of the binocularly activated cells in the striate cortex that are able to discriminate and assess the vertical disparities. Experiments are proposed that should validate, or otherwise, the concepts put forward in this paper.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B
- Pub Date:
- September 1989