Gori, M., Burr, D., & Campus, C.

Disambiguating vision with sound

Current Biology, 34(6), R235–R236

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2024.01.043 Download

An important task for the visual system is to identify and segregate objects from background. Figure–ground illusions, such as Edgar Rubin’s bistable ‘vase–faces illusion’1, make the point clearly: we see either a central vase or lateral faces, alternating spontaneously, but never both images simultaneously. The border is perceptually assigned to either faces or vase, which become figure, the other shapeless background2. The stochastic alternation between figure and ground probably reflects mutual inhibitory processes that ensure a single perceptual outcome3. Which shape dominates perception depends on many factors, such as size, symmetry, convexity, enclosure, and so on, as well as attention and intention4. Here we show that the assignment of the visual border can be strongly influenced by auditory input, far more than is possible by voluntary intention.