Sensory memory: a lingering memory trace from the time when perception was formed

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Perception 43 ECVP Abstract Supplement (2014)


<p>As visual information is always incomplete, our brain accumulates sensory evidence over time to achieve an accurate representation of the world. We now show that this initial accumulation leaves a lingering memory trace, able to bias the perception of subsequent displays. Specifically, we suggest that this lingering sensory evidence manifests itself as a sensory memory: a facilitatory history effect observed in the multi-stable perception. To demonstrate this, we employed an intermittently presented ambiguously rotating, asymmetric shape (&ldquo;structure-from-motion&rdquo;) and systematically varied its orientation when the display resumed after being interrupted. Surprisingly, we found that it is not the most recently perceived states (near the end of the presentation interval) that are favored by the content of sensory memory. Instead, sensory memory favors the earliest perceived state, revealing a memory trace from the time at which perception was initially resolved. Our results demonstrate that sensory memory offers an opportunity to investigate the process of perceptual construction post hoc. It is potentially revealing about the time course of perceptual inference, allows us to characterize representations that are involved in construction of perception, and provides predictions about neural correlates of sensory evidence accumulation mechanisms.</p>