Perceptual Properties of the Poisson Effect

When an elastic material (e.g., fabric) is horizontally stretched (or compressed), the material is compressed (or extended) vertically – so-called the Poisson effect. In the different case of the Poisson effect, when an elastic material (e.g., rubber) is vertically squashed, the material is horizontally extended. In both cases, the visual system receives image deformations involving horizontal expansion and vertical compression. How does the brain disentangle the two cases and accurately distinguish stretching from squashing events? Manipulating the relative magnitude of the deformation of a square between horizontal and vertical dimensions in the two-dimensional stimuli, we asked observers to judge the force direction in the stimuli. Specifically, the participants reported whether the square was stretched or squashed. In general, the participant’s judgment was dependent on the relative deformation magnitude. We also checked the anisotropic effect of deformation direction [i.e., horizontal vs. vertical stretching (or squashing)] and found that the participant’s judgment was strongly biased toward horizontal stretching. We also observed that the asymmetric deformation pattern, which indicated the specific context of force direction, was also a strong cue to the force direction judgment. We suggest that the brain judges the force direction in the Poisson effect on the basis of assumptions about the relationship between image deformation and force direction, in addition to the relative image deformation magnitudes between horizontal and vertical dimensions.

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