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'Mind's eye' influences visual perception
Date:7/3/2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Letting your imagination run away with you may actually influence how you see the world. New research from Vanderbilt University has found that mental imagery--what we see with the "mind's eye"--directly impacts our visual perception.

The research was published online June 26 by the journal Current Biology.

"We found that imagery leads to a short-term memory trace that can bias future perception," Joel Pearson, research associate in the Vanderbilt Department of Psychology. and lead author of the study, said. "This is the first research to definitively show that imagining something changes vision both while you are imagining it and later on."

"These findings are important because they suggest a potential mechanism by which top-down expectations or recollections of previous experiences might shape perception itself," Pearson and his co-authors wrote.

It is well known that a powerful perceptual experience can change the way a person sees things later. Just think of what can happen if you discover an unwanted pest in your kitchen, such as a mouse. Suddenly you see mice in every dust ball and dark corner--or think you do. Is it possible that imagining something, just once, might also change how you perceive things?

"You might think you need to imagine something 10 times or 100 times before it has an impact," Frank Tong, associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study, said. "Our results show that even a single instance of imagery can tilt how you see the world one way or another, dramatically, if the conditions are right."

To test how imagery affects perception, Pearson, Tong and co-author Colin Clifford of the University of Sydney had subjects imagine simple patterns of vertical or horizontal stripes, which are strongly represented in the primary visual areas of the brain. They then presented a green horizontal grated pattern to one eye and a red vertical grated pattern to
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Contact: Melanie Moran
melanie.moran@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-2706
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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