Forming and updating object representations without awareness: evidence from motion-induced blindness.
The input to visual processing consists of an undifferentiated array of features which must be parsed into discrete units. Here we explore the degree to which conscious awareness is important for forming such object representations, and for updating them in the face of changing visual scenes. We do so by exploiting the phenomenon of motion-induced blindness (MIB), wherein salient (and even attended) objects fluctuate into and out of conscious awareness when superimposed onto certain global motion patterns. By introducing changes to unseen visual stimuli during MIB, we demonstrate that object representations can be formed and updated even without conscious access to those objects. Such changes can then influence not only how stimuli reenter awareness, but also what reenters awareness. We demonstrate that this processing encompasses simple object representations and also several independent Gestalt grouping cues. We conclude that flexible visual parsing over time and visual change can occur even without conscious perception. Methodologically, we conclude that MIB may be an especially useful tool for studying the role of awareness in visual processing and vice versa.
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