Motion-induced blindness in normal observers

Nature. 2001 Jun 14;411(6839):798-801. doi: 10.1038/35081073.


Cases in which salient visual stimuli do not register consciously are known to occur in special conditions, such as the presentation of dissimilar stimuli to the two eyes or when images are stabilized on the retina. Here, we report a striking phenomenon of 'visual disappearance' observed with normal-sighted observers under natural conditions. When a global moving pattern is superimposed on high-contrast stationary or slowly moving stimuli, the latter disappear and reappear alternately for periods of several seconds. We show that this motion-induced blindness (MIB) phenomenon is unlikely to reflect retinal suppression, sensory masking or adaptation. The phenomenology observed includes perceptual grouping effects, object rivalry and visual field anisotropy. This is very similar to that found in other types of visual disappearance, as well as in clinical cases of attention deficits, in which partial invisibility might occur despite the primary visual areas being intact. Disappearance might reflect a disruption of attentional processing, which shifts the system into a winner-takes-all mode, uncovering the dynamics of competition between object representations within the human visual system.

MeSH terms

  • Blindness
  • Humans
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Optical Illusions*
  • Retina / physiology