Amodal causal capture in the tunnel effect

Gi Yeul Bae, Jonathan I. Flombaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In addition to identifying individual objects in the world, the visual system must also characterize the relationships between objects, for instance when objects occlude one another or cause one another to move. Here we explored the relationship between perceived causality and occlusion. Can one perceive causality in an occluded location? In several experiments, observers judged whether a centrally presented event involved a single object passing behind an occluder, or one object causally launching another (out of view and behind the occluder). With no additional context, the centrally presented event was typically judged as a non-causal pass, even when the occluding and disoccluding objects were different colorsöan illusion known as the 'tunnel effect' that results from spatiotemporal continuity. However, when a synchronized context event involved an unambiguous causal launch, participants perceived a causal launch behind the occluder. This percept of an occluded causal interaction could also be driven by grouping and synchrony cues in the absence of any explicitly causal interaction. These results reinforce the hypothesis that causality is an aspect of perception. It is among the interpretations of the world that are independently available to vision when resolving ambiguity, and that the visual system can'fill in' amodally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-90
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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