Perceiving a Continuous Visual World Across Voluntary Eye Blinks

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Abstract

People blink their eyes every few seconds, but the changes in retinal illumination that accompany eyeblinks are hardly noticed. Furthermore, despite the loss of visual input, visual experience remains continuous across eyeblinks. Two hypotheses were investigated to account for these phenomena. The first proposes that perceptual information is maintained across a blink whereas the second proposes that perceptual information is not maintained but rather postblink perceptual experience is antedated to the beginning of the blink. Two experiments found no evidence for temporal antedating of a stimulus presented during a voluntary eyeblink. In a third experiment subjects judged the temporal duration of a stimulus that was interrupted by a voluntary eyeblink with that of a stimulus presented while the eyes were open. The duration of stimuli that were interrupted by eyeblinks was judged to be 117 ms shorter than that of stimuli presented while the eyes remained open, indicating that blink duration was not accounted for in the perception of stimulus duration. This suggests that perceptual experience is neither maintained nor antedated across eyeblinks, but rather is ignored, perhaps in response to the extraretinal signal that accompanies the eyeblink.

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