"Conscious and unconscious visual processing under continuous flash suppression"
One important challenge for the study of human cognition is to determine the functional role of consciousness. Recently, the development of continuous flash suppression (CFS), a potent variant of binocular rivalry, has equipped researchers with a powerful psychophysical technique for rendering stimuli fully invisible for several seconds. In my work I have been using CFS to study the extent and limits of visual processing outside of conscious awareness and to determine which stimuli are preferentially selected for conscious access. One line of research concerns the processing of socially relevant visual information, such as faces, emotional expressions, eye gaze, or human bodies. Results show that socially relevant stimuli gain preferential access to awareness under CFS. Such privileged processing may reflect our extensive perceptual experience with social visual information. A second line of research demonstrates that access to awareness is indeed facilitated when stimuli are consistent with learned real-world regularities or when stimuli match top-down expectations. While these studies have added to a better understanding of the perceptual mechanisms underlying selection for conscious access, they have also sparked a new debate about valid measures for conscious and unconscious processing. I will argue that empirical findings obtained with CFS need to be placed in a broader framework that encompasses data from other paradigms in order to contribute to a general theory of consciousness.
Jan 18, 2016 | 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM