Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 80, Issue 5, pp 1193–1204 | Cite as

Out of sight, out of mind: Occlusion and eye closure destabilize moving bistable structure-from-motion displays

  • Alexander Pastukhov
  • Johanna Prasch
  • Claus-Christian Carbon


Our brain constantly tries to anticipate the future by using a variety of memory mechanisms. Interestingly, studies using the intermittent presentation of multistable displays have shown little perceptual persistence for interruptions longer than a few hundred milliseconds. Here we examined whether we can facilitate the perceptual stability of bistable displays following a period of invisibility by employing a physically plausible and ecologically valid occlusion event sequence, as opposed to the typical intermittent presentation, with sudden onsets and offsets. To this end, we presented a bistable rotating structure-from-motion display that was moving along a linear horizontal trajectory on the screen and either was temporarily occluded by another object (a cardboard strip in Exp. 1, a computer-generated image in Exp. 2) or became invisible due to eye closure (Exp. 3). We report that a bistable rotation direction reliably persisted following occlusion or interruption only (1) if the pre- and postinterruption locations overlapped spatially (an occluder with apertures in Exp. 2 or brief, spontaneous blinks in Exp. 3) or (2) if an object’s size allowed for the efficient grouping of dots on both sides of the occluding object (large objects in Exp. 1). In contrast, we observed no persistence whenever the pre- and postinterruption locations were nonoverlapping (large solid occluding objects in Exps. 1 and 2 and long, prompted blinks in Exp. 3). We report that the bistable rotation direction of a moving object persisted only for spatially overlapping neural representations, and that persistence was not facilitated by a physically plausible and ecologically valid occlusion event.


Bistable perception Multistable perception Predictive perception Visual memory Tunnel effect Structure from motion Ambiguity Persistence 

Supplementary material (1.2 mb)
Video 1. Experiment 1: Width ratio of 1:1. (MOV 1204 kb) (1.1 mb)
Video 2. Experiment 1: Width ratio of 1:1, with halo. (MOV 1145 kb) (2.8 mb)
Video 3. Experiment 1: Width ratio of 1.3:1. (MOV 2835 kb) (1.3 mb)
Video 4. Experiment 1: Width ratio of 1.3:1, with halo. (MOV 1377 kb)
Video 5.

Experiment 1: Width ratio of 2:1. (MOV 1758 kb)

Video 6.

Experiment 1: Width ratio of 2:1, with halo. (MOV 1712 kb)

Video 7.

Experiment 2: Visible occluding object. Aperture area: 5%. (MOV 1193 kb)

Video 8.

Experiment 2: Camouflaged occluding object. Aperture area: 5%. (MOV 1204 kb)

Video 9.

Experiment 2: Visible occluding object. Aperture area: 50%. (MOV 1281 kb)

Video 10.

Experiment 2: Camouflaged occluding object. Aperture area: 50%. (MOV 1275 kb) (1.3 mb)
Video 11. Experiment 3. (MOV 1316 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Pastukhov
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johanna Prasch
    • 1
  • Claus-Christian Carbon
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General Psychology and MethodologyUniversity of BambergBambergGermany
  2. 2.Forschungsgruppe EPÆG (Ergonomics, Psychological Æsthetics, Gestalt)BambergGermany

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