Multistable perception

Examples of visually ambiguous patterns. From top to bottom: Necker cube, Schroeder stairs and Müller-Lyer illusion.

Multistable perception (or bistable perception) is a perceptual phenomenon in which an observer experiences an unpredictable sequence of spontaneous subjective changes. While usually associated with visual perception (a form of optical illusion), multistable perception can also be experienced with auditory and olfactory percepts.

ClassificationEdit

Perceptual multistability can be evoked by visual patterns that are too ambiguous for the human visual system to recognize with one unique interpretation. Familiar examples include the Necker cube, Schroeder staircase, structure from motion, monocular rivalry, and binocular rivalry, but many more visually ambiguous patterns are known. Because most of these images lead to an alternation between two mutually exclusive perceptual states, they are sometimes also referred to as bistable perception.[1]

Auditory and olfactory examples can occur when there are conflicting, and so rival, inputs into the two ears[2] or two nostrils.[3]

CharacterizationEdit

Transitions from one precept to its alternative are called perceptual reversals. They are spontaneous and stochastic events that cannot be eliminated by intentional efforts, although some control over the alternation process is learnable. Reversal rates vary drastically between stimuli and observers. They are slower for people with bipolar disorder.[4][5]

Cultural historyEdit

Human interest in these phenomena can be traced back to antiquity. The fascination with multistable perception probably comes from the active nature of endogenous perceptual changes or from the dissociation of dynamic perception from constant sensory stimulation.

Multistable perception was a common feature in the artwork of the Dutch lithographer M. C. Escher, who was strongly influenced by mathematical physicists such as Roger Penrose.[citation needed]

ExamplesEdit

Real world phenomenaEdit

Photographs of craters, from either the moon or other planets including our own, can exhibit this phenomenon. Craters in stereo vision, such as our eyes, normally appear concave. However, in monocular presentations, such as photographs, the elimination of our depth perception causes multistable perception, which can cause the craters to look like plateaus rather than pits.[citation needed] Sometimes rotating the image so that the photographic direction of the source of light matches a light source in the room can cause the correct perception to suddenly switch.[citation needed]

In popular cultureEdit

In literature, the science fiction novel, Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany, contains circular text, multistable perception, and multiple entry points.[citation needed]

Multistable perception arises with the theater segments of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as due to the construction of the Crow T. Robot puppet, its head can appear to be facing towards the camera rather than towards the film being shown. This was addressed by the creators of the series, even likening Crow to a Necker cube[6] or The Spinning Dancer.[when?]

See alsoEdit

BibliographyEdit

  • Alais, D; Blake, R., eds. (2005). Binocular Rivalry. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01212-6.
  • Kruse, P.; Stadler, M. (1995). Multistable Cognitive Phenomena. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-57082-2.

SourcesEdit

  1. ^ Eagleman, D. (2001). "Visual Illusions and Neurobiology" (PDF). Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2 (12): 920–926. doi:10.1038/35104092. PMID 11733799. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27.
  2. ^ Deutsch, D. (1974). "An Auditory Illusion". Nature. 251 (5473): 307–309. doi:10.1038/251307a0. PMID 4427654.
  3. ^ Zhou, W.; Chen, D. (2009). "Binaral Rivalry Between the Nostrils and in the Cortex". Current Biology. 19 (18): 1561–1565. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.052. PMC 2901510. PMID 19699095.
  4. ^ Pettigrew, J. D.; Miller, S. M. (1998). "A 'sticky' interhemispheric switch in bipolar disorder?". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 265 (1411): 2141–2148. doi:10.1098/rspb.1998.0551. PMC 1689515. PMID 9872002.
  5. ^ Miller, S. M.; Gynther, B. D.; Heslop, K. R.; Liu G. B.; Mitchell, P. B.; Ngo, T. T.; Pettigrew, J. D.; Geffen, L. B. (2003). "Slow Binocular Rivalry in Bipolar Disorder" (PDF). Psychological Medicine. 33 (4): 683–692. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.693.9166. doi:10.1017/S0033291703007475. PMID 12785470.
  6. ^ Trace Beaulieu ... (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. Bantam. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-553-37783-5.

External linksEdit