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Surya Gayet, Jan W. Brascamp, Stefan Van der Stigchel, Chris L. E. Paffen; Cogito ergo video: Task-relevant information is involuntarily boosted into awareness. Journal of Vision 2015;15(5):3. doi: 10.1167/15.5.3.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Only part of the visual information that impinges on our retinae reaches visual awareness. In a series of three experiments, we investigated how the task relevance of incoming visual information affects its access to visual awareness. On each trial, participants were instructed to memorize one of two presented hues, drawn from different color categories (e.g., red and green), for later recall. During the retention interval, participants were presented with a differently colored grating in each eye such as to elicit binocular rivalry. A grating matched either the task-relevant (memorized) color category or the task-irrelevant (nonmemorized) color category. We found that the rivalrous stimulus that matched the task-relevant color category tended to dominate awareness over the rivalrous stimulus that matched the task-irrelevant color category. This effect of task relevance persisted when participants reported the orientation of the rivalrous stimuli, even though in this case color information was completely irrelevant for the task of reporting perceptual dominance during rivalry. When participants memorized the shape of a colored stimulus, however, its color category did not affect predominance of rivalrous stimuli during retention. Taken together, these results indicate that the selection of task-relevant information is under volitional control but that visual input that matches this information is boosted into awareness irrespective of whether this is useful for the observer.
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