Fulvio Domini

Visiting scientist

Former colleague


Corso Bettini 31 - Palazzo Fedrigotti


Fulvio Domini received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Trieste in 1997 and became faculty at the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences at Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) in 1999, where he is currently full professor. Since 2008 he has been the head of the Active Vision Lab at the Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, where his group studies visual processing of 3D information for perception and motor control.


Research in the Active Vision Lab is attempting to answer two important research questions: How does visual stimulation inform the brain about the three-dimensional structure of the world? What information is important for complex organisms, like humans and other primates, to be able to successfully interact with the surrounding environment?The majority of researchers dealing with the problem of the human perception of 3D, spanning psychophysicists, computer scientists, and neuroscientists, assume that the goal of the visual system is to reconstruct a veridical Euclidean structure of the world. Surprisingly, the assumption that the brain recovers a veridical Euclidean representation is never a topic for debate in the standard depth perception literature. In fifteen years of experimental work, Fulvio Domini and his colleagues have learned that perceptual distortions in metric tasks are the norm and not the exception.  Large biases are found, for example, when observers are asked to judge distances between pairs of points, the local orientation, or the local curvature of smooth surfaces. These biases persist regardless of the number of cues present that specify the 3D shape of an object.  Distortions are found for virtual as well as real objects.  Different kinds of metric judgments are not only inaccurate, but also inconsistent with each other, as if separate physical-perceptual mappings apply to different metric properties. Moreover, different cues induce different inconsistencies.

If the visual system is unable to reconstruct the metric properties of the world, however, how can we grasp objects if we do not know their true size and location?  Is it possible that perceptual distortions are only found in purely perceptual tasks, made by passive observers viewing the stimulus from a static point of view?

In order to address these questions the Active Vision Lab is focusing on two main lines of research:

1. 3D Information for reaching and grasping: the Active Vision Lab is studying how depth information is used for grasping virtual objects. For example, instead of only asking perceptual judgments about the 3D structure of an object, it is also determined how the aperture between finger and thumb is related to the depth of the object at the end of a grasping action. In a recently published study the group provided converging evidence with what was found with visual tasks: when observers cannot see their hand while grasping an object the final grip aperture between index and thumb is inaccurate. This inaccuracy persists or even worsens when more visual signals are provided. It was also discovered that the same pattern of distortions in depth estimates can be found in perceptual tasks, even though the size of these distortions is different than those in the grasping task.  The main hypothesis is that affine information is the input for both perceptual and motor tasks.

2. 3D vision by the active observer: In this line of research the group is seeking a better understanding of the role that extraretinal signals play in the perceptual interpretation of the optic flow.  A commonly held assumption is that extraretinal signals about the observer’s egomotion are used by the visual system to scale the optic flow in order to recover the Euclidean structure of surfaces in the world. In recently published studies, the group found that this assumption is incorrect.  The visual system mostly ignores the amount of the observer’s egomotion, since the active observer shows large biases in the assessment of metric properties from the self-generated optic flow.  These biases are similar to those found when a static observer is passively viewing the very same optic flow.  The Active Vision Lab is currently developing a model for the interpretation of the optic flow, which does not require the measurement of the linear motion of the observer’s point of view. Instead, the model incorporates the assumption that a given optic flow is the result of a generic linear motion of the observer’s point of view and derives the most likely 3D structure that may have generated the observed optic flow.  This model can also predict previous results described in the active vision literature, indicating that it may be a plausible alternative to the previous models built upon the assumption that the visual system estimates the observer’s egomotion from extraretinal signals in order to derive the veridical metric structure of distal surfaces.

Selected Publications

Bozzacchi, C., Volcic, R., & Domini, F. (2015). Grasping in absence of feedback: systematic biases endure extensive training. Experimental Brain Research, 1-11. doi:10:10.1007/s00221-015-4456-9

Bozzacchi, C., & Domini, F. (2015). Grasping lacks depth constancy in both virtual and real environments.  Journal of Neurophysiology 114 (4), 2242-2248.

Bozzacchi, C., Volcic, R., & Domini, F. (2014). The effect of visual and haptic feedback on grasping movements. Journal of Neurophysiology, 112, 3189 –3196.

Volcic, R., & Domini, F. (2014). The visibility of contact points influences grasping movements. Experimental brain research, 232,  2997-3005.

Fantoni, C., Caudek, C., & Domini, F. (2014). Misperception of rigidity from actively generated optic flow. Journal of vision14(3), 10, 1-22.

Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2013). Perception and Action Without Veridical Metric Reconstruction: An Affine Approach.  In S J. Dickinson Z. Pizlo (Eds.). Shape Perception in Human and Computer Vision (pp. 285-298). Springer London.

Volcic, R., Fantoni, C., Caudek, C., Assad, J. A., & Domini, F. (2013). Visuomotor Adaptation Changes Stereoscopic Depth Perception and Tactile Discrimination. The Journal of Neuroscience33(43), 17081-17088.

Bruggeman, H., Kliman-Silver, C., Domini, F., & Song, J. H. (2013). Dynamic manipulation generates touch information that can modify vision. Psychological science24(6), 1063-1065.

Caudek, C., & Domini, F. (2013). Priming effects under correct change detection and change blindness. Consciousness and cognition, 22, 290-305 

Fantoni, C, Caudek, C., & Domini, F. (2012). Perceived Surface Slant Is Systematically Biased in the Actively-Generated Optic Flow. PLoS ONE7(3): e33911. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033911.

Domini, F., Shah R., & Caudek C. (2011). Do we perceive a flattened world on the monitor screen?. Acta Psychologica 138, 359-366.

Caudek, C., Fantoni, C, & Domini, F. (2011). Bayesian modeling of perceived
surface slant from actively-generated and passively-observed optic flow. PLoS ONE
6(4):e18731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018731

Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2011). Combining image signals before 3D reconstruction: The Intrinsic Constraint Model of cue integration. In In J. Trommershäuser, M. S., Landy, & K. Körding (Eds.), Sensory Cue Integration (pp. 120–143). New York: Oxford University Press.

Foster R.S., Fantoni, C.,Caudek C., & Domini, F. (2011). Integration of disparity and velocity information for haptic and perceptual judgments of object depth. Acta Psychologica 163, 300-         

Van der Kooij, K., Domini, te Pas S.F., (2011). Surface boundaries do not constrain a depth aftereffect. Vision Research, 51, 138-46.                  

Domini, F., & Caudek C. (2010). Matching perceived depth from disparity and from velocity: Modeling and psychophysics. Acta Psychologica, 133, 81-89.  

Fantoni, C.,Caudek C., & Domini, F. (2010). Systematic distortions of perceived planar surface motion in active vision. Journal of Vision, 10 (2):12, 1-20, http://journalofvision.org/9/2/25/, doi:10.1167/9.2.25.

Di Luca, M., Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2010).  Inconsistency of perceived 3D shape. Vision Research, 50, 1519-1531.

Domini, F., & Caudek C. (2009). The intrinsic constraint model and Fechnerian sensory scaling. Journal of Vision., 9(2): 25, 1-15, http://journalofvision.org/10/5/12/, doi: 10.1167/10.5.12.

Tassinari H., Domini, F. Caudek C., (2008). The Intrinsic Constraint Model for Stereo-Motion Integration. Perception,37, 79-95.  

Di Luca, M., Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2007).  The relation between disparity and velocity signals of rigidly moving objects constrains depth order perception. Vision Research, 25, 1335-1349.

Domini, F. Caudek C., & Tassinari (2006). Stereo and motion information are not independently processed by the visual system. Vision Research, 46, 1707-1723. 

Vuong, Q. C., Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2006).  Disparity and shading cues cooperate for surface interpolation. Perception, 25, 145-155.

Vuong, Q., Domini, F. & Caudek, C. (2004).  Evidence for patchwork approximation of shape primitives. Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 1246-1259.

Di Luca, M.,  Domini, F., & Caudek, C. (2004).  Spatial integration in structure from motion. Vision Research,, 44,  3001-3013.

Shlerf, J., and Domini, F. & Caudek (2004).  3D shape-contingent processing of luminance gratings. Vision Research, 44, 1079-1091.

Domini, F. & Caudek C. (2003). 3D structure perceived from dynamic information: A new theory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 444-449.

Domini, F. & Caudek C. (2003).  Recovering slant and angular velocity from a linear velocity field: modeling and psychophysics.  Vision Research, 43, 1753-1764.

Domini, F., Caudek C. & Skirko, P (2003).  Temporal integration of motion and stereo cues to depth. Perception & Psychophysics, 65, 48 - 57.

Caudek C., Domini, F. & Di Luca M. (2002). Short-term Temporal Recruitment in Structure from Motion. Vision Research, 10, 1213-1233.

Domini, F., Vuong, Q.C., & Caudek, C.(2002).  Temporal integration in structure from motion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 816-838.

Blaser, E., & Domini, F. (2002) The conjunction of feature and depth information. Vision Research,3, 273-279.

Caudek, C., Domini, F. & Di Luca M. (2002).  Illusory 3D rotation induced by dynamic image shading.  Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 366-379.

Plet, S., Domini, F., Gerbino, W. & Varalda, G. (2001). Evaluation of a visual collision warning in simulated driving.  International Journal of Cognitive Technology, 6, 20-28.

Domini, F., Adams, W.J. & Banks, M.S. (2001).  3D after-effeccts are due to shape and not disparity adaptation. Vision Research, 41, 2733-2739.

Domini, F., & Braunstein, M.L. (2001).  Influence of a stereo surface on the perceived tilt of a monocular line. Perception & Psychophysics, 63, 607-624.

Domini, F., Blaser, E. & Cicerone, C. (2000) Color-specific depth mechanisms revealed by a color-contingent depth aftereffect. Vision Research, 40, 359-364.

Domini, F. & Caudek, C.  (1999) Perceiving surface slant from deformation of optic flow.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 426-444.          

Domini, F., Caudek, C. & Richman, S.  (1998) Distortions of depth-order relations and parallelism in structure from motion. Perception & Psychophysics., 60, 1164-1174

Domini, F. & Braunstein, M.L. (1998). Recovery of 3D structure from motion is neither Euclidean nor affine.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance., 24, 1273-1295

Caudek, C., & Domini, F. (1998).  Perceived orientation of axis of rotation in structure-from-motion.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance., 24, 609-621

Domini, F., Caudek, C., Turner & Favretto, A. (1998).  Discriminating constant from variable angular velocities in structure from motion.  Perception & Psychophysics., 60, 747-760

Domini, F., Caudek, C. & Proffitt, D.R. (1997).  Misperceptions of angular velocities influence the perception of rigidity in the Kinetic Depth Effect.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance., 23, 1111- 1129.

Bruno, N. Bertamini, M., & Domini, F. (1997).  Amodal completion of partly occluded surfaces: Is there a "mosaic" stage? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 1412- 1426.