Skip to main content

Bistable Perception in Conceptor Networks

  • 3964 Accesses

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNTCS,volume 11731)


Bistable perception describes the phenomenon of perception alternating between stable states when a subject is presented two incompatible stimuli. Besides intensive research in the last century many open questions remain. As a phenomenon occurring across different perceptual domains, understanding bistable perception can help to reveal properties of information processing in the human brain. It becomes apparent that bistable perception involves multiple distributed processes and several layers in the hierarchy of sensory processing. This observation directs research towards general models of perceptual inference and to the question whether these models can account for the spontaneous subjective changes in percepts that subjects experience when shown rivalling stimuli. We implemented a recurrent generative model based on hierarchical conceptors to investigate its behaviour when fed an ambiguous signal as input. With this model we can show that (1) it is possible to obtain precise predictions about the properties of bistable perception using a general model for perceptual inference, (2) hierarchical processes allow for reduction in prediction error, (3) random switches in the percept of the network are due to noise in the input and (4) dominance times exhibit a gamma distribution of stimulus dominance times compatible with experimental findings in psychophysics. Code for the experiments is available at


  • Bistable perception
  • Predictive coding
  • Conceptors

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-30493-5_3
  • Chapter length: 11 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-30493-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.

This figure is reproduced from Brascamp et al. [4].


  1. Alais, D., Blake, R.: Binocular Rivalry. MIT Press, Cambridge (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Brascamp, J.W., Van Ee, R., Noest, A.J., Jacobs, R.H., van den Berg, A.V.: The time course of binocular rivalry reveals a fundamental role of noise. J. Vis. 6(11), 8 (2006)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  3. Brascamp, J.W., Van Ee, R., Pestman, W.R., Van Den Berg, A.V.: Distributions of alternation rates in various forms of bistable perception. J. Vis. 5(4), 1 (2005)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  4. Brascamp, J., Klink, P., Levelt, W.J.: The ‘laws’ of binocular rivalry: 50 years of levelt’s propositions. Vis. Res. 109, 20–37 (2015)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  5. Carter, O., Konkle, T., Wang, Q., Hayward, V., Moore, C.: Tactile rivalry demonstrated with an ambiguous apparent-motion quartet. Curr. Biol. 18(14), 1050–1054 (2008)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  6. Dayan, P.: A hierarchical model of binocular rivalry. Neural Comput. 10(5), 1119–1135 (1998)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  7. Deutsch, D.: An auditory illusion. Nature 251(5473), 307 (1974)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  8. Freeman, A.W.: A multi-stage model for binocular rivalry. J. Neurophysiol. 94, 4412–4420 (2005)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  9. Greff, K., Klein, A., Chovanec, M., Hutter, F., Schmidhuber, J.: The Sacred infrastructure for computational research. In: Proceedings of the 16th Python in Science Conference, pp. 49–56. SciPy (2017)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hohwy, J., Roepstorff, A., Friston, K.: Predictive coding explains binocular rivalry: an epistemological review. Cognition 108(3), 687–701 (2008)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  11. Jaeger, H.: The “echo state” approach to analysing and training recurrent neural networks-with an erratum note. Bonn, Germany: German National Research Center for Information Technology GMD Technical report 148, 34 (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Jaeger, H.: Controlling recurrent neural networks by conceptors. arXiv preprint arXiv:1403.3369 (2014)

  13. Levelt, W.J.: On binocular rivalry. Ph.D. thesis, Van Gorcum Assen (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  14. Necker, L.A.: LXI. observations on some remarkable optical phænomena seen in switzerland; and on an optical phænomenon which occurs on viewing a figure of a crystal or geometrical solid. The London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philos. Mag. J. Sci. 1(5), 329–337 (1832)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  15. Wheatstone, C.: Contributions to the physiology of vision.-part the first. on some remarkable, and hitherto unobserved, phenomena of binocular vision. Philos. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. 128, 371–394 (1838)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Zhou, W., Chen, D.: Binaral rivalry between the nostrils and in the cortex. Curr. Biol. 19(18), 1561–1565 (2009)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Felix Meyer zu Driehausen .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this paper

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Meyer zu Driehausen, F., Busche, R., Leugering, J., Pipa, G. (2019). Bistable Perception in Conceptor Networks. In: Tetko, I., Kůrková, V., Karpov, P., Theis, F. (eds) Artificial Neural Networks and Machine Learning – ICANN 2019: Workshop and Special Sessions. ICANN 2019. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 11731. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-30492-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-30493-5

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)