Visual Rivalry Without Spatial Conflict

Jeroen J.A. van Boxtel, Christof Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Visual rivalry has been extensively characterized in the literature. It is thought to require spatial conflict between overlapping visual presentations, even in studies that have found nonspatial (i.e., nonretinal) influences on rivalry. Unexpectedly, we identified visual rivalry in the complete absence of spatial conflict. Participants experienced visual rivalry when we placed a nonambiguous motion stimulus in a nonspatial (in our case, object-based) reference frame. Moreover, a stimulus that was displaced within a nonspatial reference frame did not induce rivalry despite the presence of spatial conflict. This finding shows that nonspatial, object-based processing can overrule retinotopic processing and prevent rivalry from occurring when a perceived stimulus exists unambiguously in an object-based reference frame. Our results identify a potent high-level conflict-resolution stage independent of low-level spatial visual conflict. This independence of spatial overlap provides an advantage to the visual system, allowing conflict resolution when an object is nonstationary on the retina (e.g., during frequently occurring eye movements).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-418
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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