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How does our search engine "see" the world? The case of amodal completion.

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This article illustrates a dissociation between the perceived attributes of an object and the ability of those attributes to guide the deployment of attention in visual search. Orientation is an attribute that guides search. Thus, a vertical line will "pop out" amid horizontal distractors. Amodal completion can create perceptually convincing oriented stimuli when two elements appear to form a complete object partially hidden behind an occluder. Previous work (e.g., Rensink & Enns, Vision Research, 38, 2489-2505, 1998) has shown a preattentive role for amodal completion in search tasks. Here, we show that orientation based on perceptually compelling amodal completion may fail to guide attention. The broader conclusion is that introspection is a poor guide to the capabilities of our internal search engine.

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