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Paper in Current Biology

  • Watson, T.L, Pearson, J. and Clifford, C.W.G. (2004) Perceptual grouping of biological motion promotes binocular rivalry. Current Biology, 14, 1670-1674.


    Investigation of perceptual rivalry between conflicting stimuli presented one to each eye can further understanding of the neural underpinnings of conscious visual perception [1 and 2]. During rivalry, visual awareness fluctuates between perceptions of the two stimuli. Here, we demonstrate that high-level perceptual grouping can promote rivalry between stimulus pairs that would otherwise be perceived as nonrivalrous. Perceptual grouping was generated with point-light walker stimuli that simulate human motion, visible only as lights placed on the joints. Although such walking figures are unrecognizable when stationary [3], recognition judgments as complex as gender [4 and 5] and identity [6] can accurately be made from animated displays, demonstrating the efficiency with which our visual system can group dynamic local signals into a globally coherent walking figure. We find that point-light walker stimuli presented one to each eye and in different colors and configurations results in strong rivalry. However, rivalry is minimal when the two walkers are split between the eyes or both presented to one eye. This pattern of results suggests that processing animated walker figures promotes rivalry between signals from the two eyes rather than between higher-level representations of the walkers. This leads us to hypothesize that awareness during binocular rivalry involves the integrated activity of high-level perceptual mechanisms in conjunction with lower-level ocular suppression modulated via cortical feedback.