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Individual differences in the influence of mental imagery on conscious perception

By Nadine Dijkstra, Max Hinne, Sander Erik Bosch, Marcel van Gerven

Posted 13 Apr 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/607770

Mental imagery and visual perception rely on similar neural mechanisms, but the function of this overlap remains unclear. One idea is that imagery can influence perception. Previous research has shown that imagining a stimulus prior to binocular presentation of rivalling stimuli increases the chance of perceiving the imagined stimulus. In this study we investigated how this effect interacts with bottom-up sensory input by comparing psychometric response curves for congruent and incongruent imagery in humans. A Bayesian hierarchical model was used, allowing us to simultaneously study group-level effects as well as effects for individual participants. We found strong effects of both imagery as well as its interaction with sensory evidence within individual participants. However, the direction of these effects were highly variable between individuals, leading to weak effects at the group level. This highlights the heterogeneity of conscious perception and emphasizes the need for individualized investigation of such complex cognitive processes.

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