Weak experiences sufficient for creating illusory figures that influence perception of actual lines

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The question of whether conscious experience is best viewed as graded or dichotomous has received much scientific attention in recent years as the answer is relevant not only to models of consciousness, but also to the examination of neural markers of consciousness in patients and infants. Although some studies have found evidence of graded perception, it is unclear whether such perception is simply composed of individual stimulus features perceived in an all-or-none manner. Here, we examined whether the Kanizsa triangle (an illusory figure that is supposedly only perceived when all its parts are visible) has an impact on line length discrimination across four degrees of subjective visibility. We found that the presence of the Kanizsa triangle biases line length judgments (a phenomenon called the Ponzo illusion) when participants reported any experience (even a weak glimpse) of the stimulus. The results support the view that consciousness is a graded phenomenon. The strength of this support depends on the assumption that all parts of the illusory figure must be perceived for the illusion to work but this assumption is not resolved in the present literature. Currently, evidence can be found both for and against this notion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0175339
JournalP L o S One
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


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