September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Real-world regularities facilitate visual awareness of objects under continuous flash suppression
Author Affiliations
  • Timo Stein
    Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy
  • Daniel Kaiser
    Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy
  • Marius Peelen
    Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1039. doi:10.1167/15.12.1039
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      Timo Stein, Daniel Kaiser, Marius Peelen; Real-world regularities facilitate visual awareness of objects under continuous flash suppression. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1039. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1039.

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      © 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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Abstract

Our stable visual awareness of the world is thought to reflect the transient dominance of neural assemblies representing the conscious percept over competing assemblies representing other aspects of the visual input. These competitive dynamics can be tracked using continuous flash suppression (CFS), in which high-contrast patterns flashed into one eye can suppress the perception of stimuli presented to the other eye for several seconds. Recent work indicates that the competitive strength of a stimulus in overcoming CFS is influenced by contextual regularities in the visual input. For example, stimuli that can be perceptually grouped based on illusory contours have a competitive advantage in gaining access to awareness under CFS. Here, we show that higher-level regularities that arise from the relative positioning of natural objects in the visual environment also modulate visual awareness. In two experiments, suppression times under CFS were shorter for pairs of objects that were positioned according to real-world spatial regularities (e.g. a lamp above a table) relative to the same object pairs shown in irregular configurations (e.g. a table above a lamp). This advantage for regular object pairs was specific to upright stimuli and abolished by stimulus inversion, meaning that it did not reflect low-level differences between regular and irregular pairs. Further controls ruled out that the relative position of individual objects could explain the effect. Thus, pairs of objects that are arranged according to real-world regularities have a competitive advantage in gaining access to awareness. These findings suggest that long-term memory representations of the typical spatial configuration of objects in the environment shape the contents of conscious perception.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015

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