Visual working memory contents bias ambiguous structure from motion perception

Lisa Scocchia, Matteo Valsecchi, Karl R Gegenfurtner, Jochen Triesch
PloS One 2013, 8 (3): e59217
The way we perceive the visual world depends crucially on the state of the observer. In the present study we show that what we are holding in working memory (WM) can bias the way we perceive ambiguous structure from motion stimuli. Holding in memory the percept of an unambiguously rotating sphere influenced the perceived direction of motion of an ambiguously rotating sphere presented shortly thereafter. In particular, we found a systematic difference between congruent dominance periods where the perceived direction of the ambiguous stimulus corresponded to the direction of the unambiguous one and incongruent dominance periods. Congruent dominance periods were more frequent when participants memorized the speed of the unambiguous sphere for delayed discrimination than when they performed an immediate judgment on a change in its speed. The analysis of dominance time-course showed that a sustained tendency to perceive the same direction of motion as the prior stimulus emerged only in the WM condition, whereas in the attention condition perceptual dominance dropped to chance levels at the end of the trial. The results are explained in terms of a direct involvement of early visual areas in the active representation of visual motion in WM.

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