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The lemon illusion: seeing curvature where there is none
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Curvature is a highly informative visual cue for shape perception and object recognition. We introduce a novel illusion—the Lemon Illusion—in which subtle illusory curvature is perceived along contour regions that are devoid of physical curvature. We offer several perceptual demonstrations and observations that lead us to conclude that the Lemon Illusion is an instance of a more general illusory curvature phenomenon, one in which the presence of contour curvature discontinuities lead to the erroneous extension of perceived curvature. We propose that this erroneous extension of perceived curvature results from the interaction of neural mechanisms that operate on spatially local contour curvature signals with higher-tier mechanisms that serve to establish more global representations of object shape. Our observations suggest that the Lemon Illusion stems from discontinuous curvature transitions between rectilinear and curved contour segments. However, the presence of curvature discontinuities is not sufficient to produce the Lemon Illusion, and the minimal conditions necessary to elicit this subtle and insidious illusion are difficult to pin down.