Competition for Consciousness Among Visual Events: The Psychophysics of Reentrant Visual Processes
V DiLollo, Dept. of Psychology, University of British Columbia.
JT Enns, Dept. of Psychology, University of British Columbia.
RA Rensink, Cambridge Basic Research, Nissan Research & Development, Inc.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,129:481-507. 2000.  [pdf]


Advances in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology have called attention to reentrant signalling as the predominant form of communication between brain areas. We propose that explicit use be made of reentrant processing in theories of perception. To show that this can be done effectively in one domain, we report on a series of psychophysical experiments involving a new form of masking, which defies explanation by current feed-forward theories. This masking occurs when a brief display of target plus mask is continued with the mask alone. We report evidence of two masking processes: an early process affected by physical factors such as adapting luminance and contour proximity, and a later process affected by attentional factors such as set size, target pop-out, and spatial pre-cuing. We call this later process masking by object substitution because it occurs whenever there is a mismatch between the reentrant visual representation and the ongoing lower-level activity produced by current sensory input. Iterative reentrant processing is formalized in a computational model that provides an excellent fit to the data. We argue that our model provides a more comprehensive account of all forms of masking than the long-held feed-forward views based on inhibitory contour interactions.

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