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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 22;102(8):3164-9. Epub 2005 Feb 14.

Past trials influence perception of ambiguous motion quartets through pattern completion.

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Department of Psychology, Center for Neural Science, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA.


There are many celebrated examples of ambiguous perceptual configurations such as the Necker cube that abruptly and repeatedly "switch" among possible perceptual states. When such ambiguous configurations are presented intermittently, observers tend to see the same perceptual state on successive trials. The outcome of each trial apparently serves to "prime" the outcome of the following. We sought to determine how long the influence of a past trial persists by using ambiguous motion quartets as stimuli. We found large, significant effects of all four most recent trials, but the results were not consistent with any priming model. The results could be explained instead as perceptual completion of two kinds of temporal patterns, repeating and alternating. We conclude that the visual system does not passively remember perceptual state: it analyzes recent perceptual history and attempts to predict what will come next. These predictions can alter what is seen.

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