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The ‘laws’ of binocular rivalry

Publication year 2015
Published in Vision Research
Authors P.C. Klink, J W Brascamp, W J M Levelt,

It has been fifty years since Levelt’s monograph On Binocular Rivalry (1965) was published, but its four propositions that describe the relation between stimulus strength and the phenomenology of binocular rivalry remain a benchmark for theorists and experimentalists even today. In this review, we will revisit the original conception of the four propositions and the scientific landscape in which this happened. We will also provide a brief update concerning distributions of dominance durations, another aspect of Levelt’s monograph that has maintained a prominent presence in the field. In a critical evaluation of Levelt’s propositions against current knowledge of binocular rivalry we will then demonstrate that the original propositions are not completely compatible with what is known today, but that they can, in a straightforward way, be modified to encapsulate the progress that has been made over the past fifty years. The resulting modified, propositions are shown to apply to a broad range of bistable perceptual phenomena, not just binocular rivalry, and they allow important inferences about the underlying neural systems. We argue that these inferences reflect canonical neural properties that play a role in visual perception in general, and we discuss ways in which future research can build on the work reviewed here to attain a better understanding of these properties.

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