Markus Kiefer, Ulrich Ansorge, John-Dylan Haynes, Fred Hamker, Uwe Mattler, Rolf Verleger, and Michael Niedeggen (2011)

Neuro-cognitive mechanisms of conscious and unconscious visual perception: From a plethora of phenomena to general principles.

Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 7(2):55--67.

Psychological and neuroscience approaches have promoted much progress in elucidating the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie phenomenal visual awareness during the last decades. In this article, we provide an overview of the latest research investigating important phenomena in conscious and unconscious vision. We identify general principles to characterize conscious and unconscious visual perception, which may serve as important building blocks for a unified model to explain the plethora of findings. We argue that in particular the integration of principles from both conscious and unconscious vision is advantageous and provides critical constraints for developing adequate theoretical models. Based on the principles identified in our review, we outline essential components of a unified model of conscious and unconscious visual perception. We propose that awareness refers to consolidated visual representations, which are accessible to the entire brain and therefore globally available. However, visual awareness not only depends on consolidation within the visual system, but is additionally the result of a post-sensory gating process, which is mediated by higher-level cognitive control mechanisms. We further propose that amplification of visual representations by attentional sensitization is not exclusive to the domain of conscious perception, but also applies to visual stimuli, which remain unconscious. Conscious and unconscious processing modes are highly interdependent with influences in both directions. We therefore argue that exactly this interdependence renders a unified model of conscious and unconscious visual perception valuable. Computational modeling jointly with focused experimental research could lead to a better understanding of the plethora of empirical phenomena in consciousness research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

open access article
Sponsor: German Research Foundation (DFG), Germany. Other Details: PAK 270. Recipients: Kiefer, Markus; Ansorge, Ulrich; Haynes, John-Dylan; Hamker, Fred; Mattler, Uwe; Verleger, Rolf; Niedeggen, Michael An open access version is available from: