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Binocular Rivalry

Blake, R. and O'Shea, R.P. (2017) Binocular Rivalry. In: Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. Elsevier Science Ltd., pp. 179-187.

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Binocular rivalry is a form of multistable perception in which visual awareness fluctuates irregularly between different stimuli imaged to corresponding retinal regions of the two eyes. Under ordinary viewing conditions, rivalry is not patently experienced. Instead, people with normal binocular vision usually experience a single stable visual world even though objects throughout most of the visual field produce two retinal images, one in each eye. Evidently the brain manages to blend, or fuse, the two images and to do so in a manner that precisely specifies the three-dimensional relationships among those objects. The processes responsible for such binocular single vision and stereopsis, however, are disrupted when dissimilar monocular stimuli are imaged on corresponding retinal locations. Under these conditions, the eyes transmit contradictory information to the brain, specifying the presence of two different objects situated at the same spatial location at the same time. Faced with this physical impossibility, the brain lapses into an unstable state characterized by alternating periods of perceptual dominance which continue as long as the eyes view discordant stimuli; this is the phenomenon termed binocular rivalry.

During binocular rivalry, conscious visual experience is intermittently dissociated from physical stimulation; a normally visible, complex visual stimulus viewed by one eye may be erased, or suppressed, from visual awareness for several seconds at a time. For this reason, rivalry provides an effective means for identifying neural events accompanying conscious visual awareness. The study of rivalry may also shed light on neural mechanisms underlying perceptual selection and on the resolution of ambiguous sensory information.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Elsevier Science Ltd.
Copyright: © 2017 Elsevier Inc.
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