Are differences in luminance spatial frequency between surfaces that overlap in depth useful for surface segmentation? We examined this question, using a novel stimulus termed a dual-surface disparity grating. The dual-surface grating was made from Gabor micropatterns and consisted of two superimposed sinusoidal disparity gratings of identical disparity-modulation spatial frequency and orientation but of opposite spatial phase. Corrugation amplitude thresholds for discrimination of the orientation of the dual-surface grating were obtained as a function of the difference in Gabor (luminance) spatial frequency between the two surfaces. When the Gabor micropatterns on the two surfaces were identical in spatial frequency, thresholds were very high and in some instances impossible to obtain. However, with as little as a 1-octave difference in spatial frequency between the surfaces, thresholds fell sharply to near-asymptotic levels. The fall in thresholds paralleled a change in the appearance of the stimulus from one of irregular depth to stereo transparency. The most parsimonious explanation for this finding is that the introduction of a between-surface luminance spatial-frequency difference reduces the number of spurious cross-surface binocular matches, thus helping to reveal the three-dimensional structure of the stimulus.
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