Jun 21, 2016

Perceptual integration without conscious access

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Johannes J FahrenfortHinze Hogendoorn


The visual system has the remarkable ability to integrate fragmentary and degraded visual input into a perceptually organized collection of surfaces, shapes and objects. Here we test the long-standing maxim that such integrative functions must be attributed to attentional selection and conscious access. Employing a full-factorial design of masking and the attentional blink, we show that behaviorally, both masking and the withdrawal of attention affect perceptual decisions about the presence of integrated surface structure from fragmented input. However, when using a multivariate classifier on electroencephalogram data, we are able to decode the presence of integrated percepts equally well regardless of the availability of attention. In contrast, masking destroys any evidence for integrated percepts, while leaving feedforward processing intact. Thus, there is a fundamental difference in the way masking and attention impact perceptual integration, despite having a similar impact on behavioral decisions. Whereas masking disrupts perceptual integration, the brain is able to organize fragmented visual input into perceptually meaningful wholes in the absence of conscious access.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Visual System
Attentional Blink
probe gene fragment
Entire Visual System

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