Psychophysical magic: rendering the visible 'invisible'

Trends Cogn Sci. 2005 Aug;9(8):381-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2005.06.012.


What are the neural correlates of conscious visual awareness? Tackling this question requires contrasting neural correlates of stimulus processing culminating in visual awareness with neural correlates of stimulus processing unaccompanied by awareness. To produce these two neural states, one must be able to erase an otherwise visible stimulus from awareness. This article describes and assesses visual phenomena involving dissociation of physical stimulation and conscious awareness: degraded stimulation, visual masking, visual crowding, bistable figures, binocular rivalry, motion-induced blindness, inattentional blindness, change blindness and attentional blink. No single approach stands above the others, but those producing changing visual awareness despite invariant physical stimulation are clearly preferable. Such phenomena can help lead us ultimately to a comprehensive account of the neural correlates of conscious awareness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magic*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*