Competition for consciousness among visual events: The psychophysics of reentrant visual processes


Advances in neuroscience implicate reentrant signaling as the predominant form of communication between brain areas. This principle was used in a series of masking experiments that defy explanation by feed-forward theories. The masking occurs when a brief display of target plus mask is continued with the mask alone. Two masking processes were found: an early process affected by physical factors such as adapting luminance and a later process affected by attentional factors such as set size. This later process is called masking by object substitution, because it occurs whenever there is a mismatch between the reentrant visual representation and the ongoing lower level activity. Iterative reentrant processing was formalized in a computational model that provides an excellent fit to the data. The model provides a more comprehensive account of all forms of visual masking than do the long-held feed-forward views based on inhibitory contour interactions.

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Ronald A. Rensink
University of British Columbia

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