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Elizabeth Salvagio, Mary A. Peterson; Competition-induced suppression in figure-ground perception spans multiple levels. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):938. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.8.938.
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Peterson & Skow (2008) showed that a familiar configuration that loses the competition for figural status is not perceived consciously and is suppressed, at least at the level of categorical shape. Here we used a target discrimination task to investigate whether the location of the familiar configuration is suppressed. Targets (left- or right-oriented bars) were located on the inside or outside of small, enclosed, symmetric novel silhouettes, near their borders. In high-competition silhouettes a portion of a familiar object was suggested along the outside of the silhouette borders, but lost the competition for figural status to the ensemble of cues that favored perceiving the inside as figure. In low-competition silhouettes there was nothing familiar on the outside. If the location of the losing familiar configuration is suppressed, then discrimination response times (RTs) for outside targets will be longer for high-competition than low-competition silhouettes. In Experiment 1, black (white) silhouettes were exposed for 80-ms on white (black) grounds. Targets (100 ms) followed silhouette disappearance. RTs were longer for both inside and outside targets following high-competition than low-competition silhouettes, p[[lt]]0.05. Such an effect could arise if suppression mediated by feedback intended for the outside of the high-competition silhouettes was coarse and spread beyond the outside location when silhouettes offset. In Experiment 2 silhouettes remained on with targets. High-competition RTs were longer than low-competition RTs for outside, but not inside, targets, p [[lt]]0.05. We take these data to indicate that 1) the location of the losing familiar configuration in the high-competition silhouette is suppressed, 2) suppression is mediated by coarse feedback and 3) the borders of the silhouette prevented suppression from spreading to the inside in Experiment 2. Thus, suppression of the losing familiar configuration spans multiple hierarchical levels.
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