Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Integration of Local and Global Scene Properties - A/Prof Branka Spehar

What is this research about?

One of the visual system's most remarkable achievements is its ability to organise complex visual input into coherent and meaningful entities.

The view that global or holistic aspects of a display precede the processing of local detail is usually pitted against the more structuralist viewpoint according to which the analysis of local features must occur before the global structure can be acquired. Although some ability to aggregate local elements into global forms seems to be present at birth and in infancy, mature global shape perception follows a long developmental trajectory and, surprisingly, does not reach adult-like levels until adolescence. The mechanisms mediating the dominance of local information in children and adolescents are not yet known.

The same dominance of local information is present in developmental disorders such as autism. These projects consider both basic visual system sensitivities to local detail at various spatial scales, as well as mechanisms that integrate spatially segmented visual information into a more global percept as contributing factors to differential weighting of either local or global information at different stages of development or in different disorders.

Other researchers involved:
Dr Yumiko Otsuka, Ehime University, Japan
Zoey Isherwood (PhD student)

Publications relating to this research:

Isherwood ZJ;Schira MM;Spehar B, 2016, 'The tuning of human visual cortex to variations in the 1/fα amplitude spectra and fractal properties of synthetic noise images', NeuroImage,

Otsuka Y;Ichikawa H;Kanazawa S;Yamaguchi MK;Spehar B, 2014, 'Temporal Dynamics of Spatial Frequency Processing in Infants', Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,

Otsuka Y;Hill HC H;Kanazawa S;Yamaguchi MK;Spehar B, 2012, 'Perception of Mooney faces by young infants: The role of local feature visibility, contrast polarity, and motion', Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 111, pp. 164 - 179,


To find out more about this research, please contact Associate Professor Branka Spehar.