When we search for an object in an array or anticipate attending to a future object, we create an 'attentional template' of the object. The definitions of attentional templates and visual imagery share many similarities as well as many of the same neural characteristics. However, the phenomenology of these attentional templates and their neural similarities to visual imagery and perception are rarely, if ever discussed. Here, we investigate the relationship between these two forms of non-retinal phantom vision through the use of the binocular rivalry technique, which allows us to measure the sensory strength of attentional templates in the absence of concurrent perceptual stimuli. We find that attentional templates correlate with both feature-based attention and visual imagery. Attentional templates, like imagery, were significantly disrupted by the presence of irrelevant visual stimuli, while feature-based attention was not. We also found that a special population who lack the ability to visualize (aphantasia), showed evidence of feature-based attention when measured using the binocular rivalry paradigm, but not attentional templates. Taken together, these data suggest functional similarities between attentional templates and visual imagery, advancing the theory of visual imagery as a general simulation tool used across cognition. This article is part of the theme issue 'Offline perception: Voluntary and spontaneous perceptual experiences without matching external stimulation'.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2021|
- visual attention
- visual imagery
- binocular rivalry
- attention templates