How fast does conscious visual perception emerge, and what is its functional significance?
Speaker: Henry Railo, University of Turku
Theories differ substantially on when they assume conscious visual perception emerges, but there seems to be a consensus that conscious percepts can only guide behavior at relatively late time-windows (around 300 ms; often called “conscious access”). Fast responses to visual stimuli are commonly attributed to unconscious visual processes, such as feed-forward “blindsight-like” responses. In this talk I will critically examine these claims, and argue that even fast behavioral responses are often based on conscious perception. The talk is structured as follows. First, after briefly summarizing current prominent models of conscious vision, I will review recent studies that challenge the notion that completely unconscious percepts are sufficient to trigger visually guided behavior. Second, I will argue that unlike is often assumed, early correlates of conscious vision do not localize strictly to sensory areas (but extend to frontal cortices), and the correlates have the power to trigger behavioral responses. If my analysis is correct, the implication is that the currently prominent model of conscious vision needs to be revised: conscious “access” is not solely a late phenomenon, and conscious visual perception is intimately linked with guidance of behavior.