August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Attentional scope modulates unconscious processing: evidence from breaking continuous flash suppression
Author Affiliations
  • Sol Z. Sun
    University of Toronto
  • Susanne Ferber
    University of Toronto
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 576. doi:
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      Sol Z. Sun, Susanne Ferber; Attentional scope modulates unconscious processing: evidence from breaking continuous flash suppression. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):576.

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

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Visual attention is a core cognitive faculty facilitating other aspects of visual experience such as object recognition and conscious awareness. However, the precise nature between these aspects of visual cognition is unclear. Studies have examined unconscious object perception using a binocular rivalry paradigm called continuous flash suppression (CFS). These studies demonstrate that stimuli receiving preferential unconscious processing require less time to break through interocular suppression. However, few studies have examined whether attention proceeds without awareness and influences object perception. This study investigated whether well-established global/local attentional biases influence processing of faces without awareness. Previous research demonstrates that global bias facilitates holistic face perception. Therefore, it was predicted that global bias would result in shorter suppression times for faces under CFS. Participants were presented with Navon images (large letters composed of small letters), and made same/different judgements based on attention to the big letter (global) or small letter (local). In CFS trials, participants were presented with Mondrian-style arrays of flashing circles to one eye, and a face to the other. They identified whether the face was to the left or right of the fixation. A control condition was included to examine the possibility that differences in suppression time were due to general differences in detection sensitivity attributable to global/local bias, not face processing per se. In control trials, the Mondrian array and face were presented to both eyes, emulating the experience of CFS under non-rivalrous conditions. Results showed that in CFS trials, detection times for face stimuli were shorter under global bias, relative to local bias. Additionally, this difference was not observed in the non-rivalrous control condition. These results suggest that global attentional bias does not require conscious awareness to influence holistic face perception. These results show that qualitatively similar computations are involved in both conscious and unconscious stimulus processing.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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