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Elizabeth Lawler, Michael Silver; Sequence learning causes perceptual suppression of expected stimuli. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):950. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.950.
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Perception relies on making predictions about the environment, and these predictions are informed by prior experience of regularities. Visual statistical learning allows for rapid acquisition of regularities in visual inputs that can then form the basis of perceptual predictions. We have shown that statistical learning of natural image sequences influences subsequent perceptual selection during binocular rivalry by increasing the likelihood of perceiving an unexpected image over an expected, learned image (Denison et al., 2016). However, creating a predictive context by rotating gratings in a particular direction influences perception in the opposite manner: when presented with a pair of orthogonal gratings in binocular rivalry, observers are more likely to perceive the grating that is consistent with the established direction of motion (Denison et al., 2011). Here, we addressed these conflicting findings regarding the roles of prediction in perceptual selection by examining the effects of stimulus complexity and the method of inducing predictive context. We used statistical learning to teach observers arbitrary sequences of grating orientations and then employed binocular rivalry to measure the effects of statistical learning on perceptual selection. Observers initially viewed sequences of oriented gratings while performing a 2AFC one-back task. Unbeknownst to the subjects, the sequences were composed of concatenated triplets that contained consistent orientations. Following statistical learning, observers performed a rivalry test in which each trial consisted of the first two gratings of a learned triplet presented unambiguously, followed immediately by a rivalrous pair consisting of the third grating from the learned triplet and an orthogonal grating. We found that observers were more likely to initially perceive the unexpected grating that was inconsistent with the learned triplet structure. Our results show that exposure to recently acquired, arbitrary sequential structures impacts subsequent visual perceptual selection and awareness such that the visual system prioritizes the unexpected over the expected.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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