Searching for Strangely Shaped Cookies – Is Taking a Bite Out of a Cookie Similar to Occluding Part of It?

Eli Brenner*, Sergio Sánchez Hurtado, Elena Alvarez Arias, Jeroen B.J. Smeets, Roland W. Fleming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Does recognizing the transformations that gave rise to an object’s retinal image contribute to early object recognition? It might, because finding a partially occluded object among similar objects that are not occluded is more difficult than finding an object that has the same retinal image shape without evident occlusion. If this is because the occlusion is recognized as such, we might see something similar for other transformations. We confirmed that it is difficult to find a cookie with a section missing when this was the result of occlusion. It is not more difficult to find a cookie from which a piece has been bitten off than to find one that was baked in a similar shape. On the contrary, the bite marks help detect the bitten cookie. Thus, biting off a part of a cookie has very different effects on visual search than occluding part of it. These findings do not support the idea that observers rapidly and automatically compensate for the ways in which objects’ shapes are transformed to give rise to the objects’ retinal images. They are easy to explain in terms of detecting characteristic features in the retinal image that such transformations may hide or create.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-153
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Early online date30 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • object perception
  • serial processing
  • shape perception
  • transformations
  • visual search


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