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Perceived speed at low luminance: Lights out for the Bayesian observer?

Freeman, Tom C. A. ORCID: and Powell, Georgie ORCID: 2022. Perceived speed at low luminance: Lights out for the Bayesian observer? Vision Research 201 , 108124. 10.1016/j.visres.2022.108124

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To account for perceptual bias, Bayesian models use the precision of early sensory measurements to weight the influence of prior expectations. As precision decreases, prior expectations start to dominate. Important examples come from motion perception, where the slow-motion prior has been used to explain a variety of motion illusions in vision, hearing, and touch, many of which correlate appropriately with threshold measures of underlying precision. However, the Bayesian account seems defeated by the finding that moving objects appear faster in the dark, because most motion thresholds are worse at low luminance. Here we show this is not the case for speed discrimination. Our results show that performance improves at low light levels by virtue of a perceived contrast cue that is more salient in the dark. With this cue removed, discrimination becomes independent of luminance. However, we found perceived speed still increased in the dark for the same observers, and by the same amount. A possible interpretation is that motion processing is therefore not Bayesian, because our findings challenge a key assumption these models make, namely that the accuracy of early sensory measurements is independent of basic stimulus properties like luminance. However, a final experiment restored Bayesian behaviour by adding external noise, making discrimination worse and slowing perceived speed down. Our findings therefore suggest that motion is processed in a Bayesian fashion but based on noisy sensory measurements that also vary in accuracy.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0042-6989
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: 6 September 2022
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 23:51

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