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Stephen R. Mitroff, David M. Sobel, Alison Gopnik; Reversing how to think about ambiguous figure reversals: Spontaneous alternating by uninformed observers. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):52. doi: 10.1167/6.6.52.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Ambiguous figures, such as the Necker Cube or ‘duck-rabbit,’ are a special class of images that can give rise to multiple interpretations. Traditionally, switching between the possible interpretations of an ambiguous figure, or reversing one's interpretation, has been attributed to either top-down or bottom-up processes (e.g., either attributed to having knowledge of the nature of the ambiguity or attributed to a form of neuronal fatigue). However, here we present evidence that is incompatible with both sorts of explanations. Five- to nine-year old observers participated in four tasks - an ambiguous figures reversal task, two ‘Theory of Mind’ tasks, and a Piagetian number conservation task (the last being used as a measure of general cognitive abilities). Going against purely top-down explanations, one third of the observers reversed the ambiguous figures when completely uninformed about the ambiguity. Further, going against purely bottom-up explanations, those children who made these ‘spontaneous’ reversals were more likely to succeed on a high-order theory of mind task, even when factoring out general cognitive abilities. These findings suggest that reversing between the possible percepts of a bi-stable image can occur spontaneously and raise the possibility of there being necessary, but not sufficient, cognitive conditions for reversals to occur.
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