Perception and the strongest sensory memory trace of multi-stable displays both form shortly after the stimulus onset

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Springer US, p.1 - 11 (2015)



Implicit visual memory, Kinetic-depth effect, multi-stable perception, Perceptual inference, Perceptual memory, sensory memory, structure-from-motion


We investigated the relation between perception and sensory memory of multi-stable structure-from-motion displays. The latter is an implicit visual memory that reflects a recent history of perceptual dominance and influences only the initial perception of multi-stable displays. First, we established the earliest time point when the direction of an illusory rotation can be reversed after the display onset (29–114 ms). Because our display manipulation did not bias perception towards a specific direction of illusory rotation but only signaled the change in motion, this means that the perceptual dominance was established no later than 29–114 ms after the stimulus onset. Second, we used orientation-selectivity of sensory memory to establish which display orientation produced the strongest memory trace and when this orientation was presented during the preceding prime interval (80–140 ms). Surprisingly, both estimates point towards the time interval immediately after the display onset, indicating that both perception and sensory memory form at approximately the same time. This suggests a tighter integration between perception and sensory memory than previously thought, warrants a reconsideration of its role in visual perception, and indicates that sensory memory could be a unique behavioral correlate of the earlier perceptual inference that can be studied post hoc.