Individual differences point to two separate processes involved in the resolution of binocular rivalry

Jan W. Brascamp, Cheng Qian, David Z. Hambrick, Mark W. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although binocular rivalry is different from other perceptually bistable phenomena in requiring interocular conflict, it also shares numerous features with those phenomena. This raises the question of whether, and to what extent, the neural bases of binocular rivalry and other bistable phenomena overlap. Here we examine this question using an individual-differences approach. In a first experiment, observers reported perception during four binocular rivalry tasks that differed in the features and retinal locations of the stimuli used. Perceptual dominance durations were highly correlated when compared between stimuli that differed in location only. Correlations were substantially weaker, however, when comparing stimuli comprised of different features. Thus, individual differences in binocular-rivalry perception partly reflect a feature-specific factor that is not shared among all variants of binocular rivalry. Our second experiment again included several binocular rivalry variants, but also a different form of bistability: moving plaid rivalry. Correlations in dominance durations between binocular rivalry variants that differed in feature content were again modest. Moreover, and surprisingly, correlations between binocular rivalry and moving plaid rivalry were of similar magnitude. This indicates a second, more general, factor underlying individual differences in binocular rivalry perception: one that is shared across binocular rivalry and moving plaid rivalry. We propose that the first, feature-specific factor corresponds to feature-tuned mechanisms involved in the treatment of interocular conflict, whereas the second, general factor corresponds to mechanisms involved in representing surfaces. These latter mechanisms would operate at a binocular level and be central to both binocular rivalry and other forms of bistability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


  • Binocular rivalry
  • Bistable perception
  • Individual differences
  • Moving plaid rivalry


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