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Jan Brascamp, Mark Becker, David Hambrick; Bolstering inter-observer differences to study the mechanisms behind perceptual bistability. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):1218. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.1218.
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Individuals systematically differ in the rate of perceptual changes when viewing ambiguous or conflicting visual stimuli. Some observers report more frequent changes, and may be called 'fast switchers'; others are 'slow switchers'. Previous research suggests that these individual differences during perceptual bistability could be related to differences in sensory adaptation and/or attentional processes. Here we investigate these possibilities by determining whether inter-observer variability in switch rate correlates with inter-observer differences on tasks designed to tap these two putative mechanisms. As a first step we verified that perceptual switch rate within an individual is stable across bistability paradigms, a possibility drawn into question by recent work1. We observe robust correlations, in terms of the number of switches per unit time, among binocular rivalry, ambiguous structure-from-motion and motion-induced blindness. This points to a common factor behind the perceptual cycle, regardless of specific paradigm. We then selected three paradigms designed to index sensory adaptation, namely motion aftereffect, tilt aftereffect, and negative afterimage paradigms. The dependent variable for each was aftereffect strength: a putative index of the degree of sensory adaptation. Similarly, to gauge attention function we selected a triplet of paradigms that included a Stroop task, a visual search task and an antisaccade task, each with reaction time as the index of attentional control. Preliminary results show significant correlations among the three 'attention' paradigms, and trends toward significance for the 'adaptation' paradigms, suggesting that each triplet of tasks does index a single underlying variable. We are currently collecting additional data with the ultimate goal of performing a latent variable analysis to probe the relationship between these putative cognitive mechanisms and perceptual shift rate. However this latent analysis comes out, the results will provide empirical constraints on theories about the mechanisms of perceptual bistability. 1. Gallagher, R. M., & Arnold, D. H. (2014). Perception, 43(11).
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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