- Conscious Vision Proceeds from Global to Local Content in Goal-Directed Tasks and Spontaneous Vision
- The Journal of Neuroscience
- Volume | Issue number
- 36 | 19
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
The reverse hierarchy theory (Hochstein and Ahissar, 2002) makes strong, but so far untested, predictions on conscious vision. In this theory, local details encoded in lower-order visual areas are unconsciously processed before being automatically and rapidly combined into global information in higher-order visual areas, where conscious percepts emerge. Contingent on current goals, local details can afterward be consciously retrieved. This model therefore predicts that (1) global information is perceived faster than local details, (2) global information is computed regardless of task demands during early visual processing, and (3) spontaneous vision is dominated by global percepts. We designed novel textured stimuli that are, as opposed to the classic Navon's letters, truly hierarchical (i.e., where global information is solely defined by local information but where local and global orientations can still be manipulated separately). In line with the predictions, observers were systematically faster reporting global than local properties of those stimuli. Second, global information could be decoded from magneto-encephalographic data during early visual processing regardless of task demands. Last, spontaneous subjective reports were dominated by global information and the frequency and speed of spontaneous global perception correlated with the accuracy and speed in the global task. No such correlation was observed for local information. We therefore show that information at different levels of the visual hierarchy is not equally likely to become conscious; rather, conscious percepts emerge preferentially at a global level. We further show that spontaneous reports can be reliable and are tightly linked to objective performance at the global level.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Is information encoded at different levels of the visual system (local details in low-level areas vs global shapes in high-level areas) equally likely to become conscious? We designed new hierarchical stimuli and provide the first empirical evidence based on behavioral and MEG data that global information encoded at high levels of the visual hierarchy dominates perception. This result held both in the presence and in the absence of task demands. The preferential emergence of percepts at high levels can account for two properties of conscious vision, namely, the dominance of global percepts and the feeling of visual richness reported independently of the perception of local details.
- go to publisher's site
- Copyright © 2016 the authors 0270-6474/16/365200-14$15.00/0.
If you believe that digital publication of certain material infringes any of your rights or (privacy) interests, please let the Library know, stating your reasons. In case of a legitimate complaint, the Library will make the material inaccessible and/or remove it from the website. Please Ask the Library, or send a letter to: Library of the University of Amsterdam, Secretariat, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You will be contacted as soon as possible.