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Inducing perceptual rivalry and fusion

We view the world with two eyes and yet are typically only aware of a single, coherent image. Arguably the  simplest explanation for this is that the visual system unites the two monocular stimuli into a common stream  that eventually leads to a single coherent sensation. However, this notion is inconsistent with the well known phenomenon of rivalry; when physically different stimuli project to the same retinal location, the ensuing perception alternates between the two monocular views in space and time [2].

Although fundamental for understanding the principles of binocular vision and visual awareness, the mechanisms underlying binocular rivalry remain controversial. Specifically, there is uncertainty about what determines Physically Identical Targets whether monocular images undergo fusion or rivalry. By taking advantage of the perceptual phenomenon of color contrast, we show that physically identical monocular stimuli tend to rival—not fuse when they signify different objects at the same location in visual space.

Conversely, when physically different monocular stimuli are likely to represent the same object at the same location in space, fusion is more likely to result. The data suggest that what competes for visual awareness in the two eyes is not the physical similarity between images but the similarity in their perceptual/empirical meaning.

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Fusion and Rivalry Are Dependent on the Perceptual Meaning of Visual Stimuli

Andrews, T. and Lotto, R.B. (2004)

Perceptual rivalry is contingent on the perceptual meaning of stimuli.

Current Biology. 14:418-423.
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