Spatial and temporal frequency in figure-ground organization

Victor Klymenko, Naomi Weisstein, Richard Topolski, Cheng Hong Hsieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Figure-ground organization of an ambiguous pattern can be manipulated by the spatial and temporal frequency content of the two regions of the pattern. Controlling for space-averaged luminance and perceived contrast, we tested patterns in which the two regions of the ambiguous pattern contained sine-wave gratings of 8, 4, 1, or 0.5 cycles per degree (cpd) undergoing on:off flicker at the rates of 0, 3.75, 7.5, or 15 Hz. For a full set of combinations of temporal frequency differences, with each spatial frequency the higher temporal frequency was seen as background for more of the viewing time. For two spatial frequency combinations, 1 and 4 cpd, and 1 and 8 cpd, tested under each of the four temporal frequencies, the lower spatial frequency region was seen as the background for more of the viewing time. When the effects of spatial and temporal frequency were set in opposition, neither was predominant in determining perceptual organization. It is suggested that figure-ground organization may parallel the sustained-transient response characteristics of the visual system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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