Illusory contour perception in domestic dogs Academic Article uri icon


  • One way to better understand how animals visually perceive their environment is to assess the way in which visual information is interpreted and adapted based on preconceptions. Domestic dogs represent a unique species in which to evaluate visual perception as recent findings suggest they may differ from humans and other animal species in terms of their susceptibility to geometric visual illusions. Dogs have demonstrated human-like, reversed, and null susceptibility depending on the type of illusion. To further evaluate how dogs perceive their environment, it is necessary to perform additional assessments of visual perception. One such assessment is the perceptual filling-in of figures, which may be invoked when presented with illusory contours. Six dogs were assessed on their perception of the Ehrenstein illusory contour illusion in a two-choice size-discrimination task. Dogs, as a group, demonstrated equivocal perception of illusory contours. Some individual dogs, however, demonstrated human-like perception of the subjective contours, providing preliminary evidence that this species is capable of perceiving illusory contour illusions, thereby improving the current understanding of canine visual perception capabilities. Additional assessments using alternative illusory contour illusions are needed to clarify these results and identify features that underpin the individual differences observed.

publication date

  • 2019