Psychophysical "blinding" methods reveal a functional hierarchy of unconscious visual processing

Consciousness and Cognition
Bruno Breitmeyer


Numerous non-invasive experimental "blinding" methods exist for suppressing the phenomenal awareness of visual stimuli. Not all of these suppressive methods occur at, and thus index, the same level of unconscious visual processing. This suggests that a functional hierarchy of unconscious visual processing can in principle be established. The empirical results of extant studies that have used a number of different methods and additional reasonable theoretical considerations suggest the following tentative hierarchy. At the highest levels in this hierarchy is unconscious processing indexed by object-substitution masking. The functional levels indexed by crowding, the attentional blink (and other attentional blinding methods), backward pattern masking, metacontrast masking, continuous flash suppression, sandwich masking, and single-flash interocular suppression, fall at progressively lower levels, while unconscious processing at the lowest levels is indexed by eye-based binocular-rivalry suppression. Although unconscious processing levels indexed by additional blinding methods is yet to be determined, a tentative placement at lower levels in the hierarchy is also given for unconscious processing indexed by Troxler fading and adapt...Continue Reading


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