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Alexander Pastukhov, Jan-Nikolas Klanke; Exogenously triggered perceptual switches in multistable structure-from-motion occur in the absence of visual awareness. Journal of Vision 2016;16(3):14. doi: 10.1167/16.3.14.
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Here, we characterize the duration of exogenously triggered perceptual switches in an ambiguously rotating structure-from-motion display and demonstrate their independence on visual awareness. To this end, we triggered a perceptual reversal by inverting the on-screen motion and systematically varied the posttrigger presentation duration, while collecting observers' reports about the initial and final directions of illusory rotation. We demonstrate that for the structure-from-motion display, perceptual transitions are extremely brief (≤20 ms) and can be considered instantaneous from an experimental perspective. We also report that although very brief posttrigger intervals (10–20 ms) reliably initiate a perceptual reversal, observers become aware of perceptual switches only if the posttrigger presentation continues for at least 80 ms. Additional experiments demonstrated that an observed lack of visual awareness for brief posttrigger presentation intervals cannot be attributed to either a systematic delay of visual awareness or to backward masking. Our results show that exogenously triggered perceptual reversal can occur in the absence of visual awareness, extending earlier work on spontaneous reversals that indicated that neither awareness nor attention may be required for multistable perception. Methodologically, the brevity and the short latency of induced perceptual reversals make them particularly suitable for finely timed experiments, such as magneto/electroencephalography studies.
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