September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
Visual adaptation of causality
Author Affiliations
  • Michael Dambacher
    Department of Psychology, Universität Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • Martin Rolfs
    Department of Psychology, New York University, New York City, NY, USA
  • Patrick Cavanagh
    Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 1061. doi:
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      Michael Dambacher, Martin Rolfs, Patrick Cavanagh; Visual adaptation of causality. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1061. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Collision events, in which a moving object abruptly stops and an adjacent object immediately takes off in the same direction, cause a striking phenomenal experience of causality. To this day the jury is still out on whether this experience is the result of vision (achieved by perception) or cognition (achieved by reason). To address this, we used visual adaptation to reveal the contribution and undeniably visual properties of underlying neural populations coding for causality. Data from 12 subjects, recruited in two different laboratories, consistently showed that prolonged viewing of perceptual causal events results in a substantial negative aftereffect on the judgment of subsequent ambiguous events. These causality aftereffects are spatially specific, affecting only those locations that were adapted, and could not be explained by adaptation to other low-level features, like motion or contrast. Our results provide strong support for hard-wired channels in retinotopic cortex that implement visual routines for the analysis of fairly complex, and seemingly high-level features of visual scenes: cause and effect in perceptual events.


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