Does Binocular Rivalry Affect Our Conscious Perceptions?

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Binocular rivalry is the switching of perception between two images seen by the eyes simultaneously. Past research has indicated that some substances can affect binocular rivalry rate. In this study, we looked at the rate of binocular rivalry in undergraduate students when they had consumed either alcohol or caffeine, or were in a control group. We found that caffeine significantly sped up the rate of binocular rivalry, but that alcohol had no significant effect. This implies that substances may have an effect on perceptual switching and provides evidence for the different conditions that may affect our conscious perceptions.


Binocular rivalry is a term used for the switching of perception between two different images that are simultaneously seen by the eyes. When this occurs, you are only conscious of one of these images at a time, with the dominant image switching between the two every few seconds. During binocular rivalry, either all or part of one of the images is suppressed from consciousness. There are three main properties of binocular rivalry; exclusivity, inevitability and stochasticity. Exclusivity means that only one image can be seen at a time, inevitability is that perception will always change at some point, as it is impossible to hold onto one image forever, and stochasticity is that switching will occur at unpredictable times (Fox and Herrmann, 1967). Many factors can influence the dominance of an image, including motion, contrast and salience.

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