Differential visual processing of animal images, with and without conscious awareness

Weina Zhu, Jan Drewes, Nicholas A. Peatfield, David Melcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human visual system can quickly and efficiently extract categorical information from a complex natural scene. The rapid detection of animals in a scene is one compelling example of this phenomenon, and it suggests the automatic processing of at least some types of categories with little or no attentional requirements (Li et al., 2002, 2005). The aim of this study is to investigate whether the remarkable capability to categorize complex natural scenes exist in the absence of awareness, based on recent reports that “invisible” stimuli, which do not reach conscious awareness, can still be processed by the human visual system (Pasley et al., 2004; Williams et al., 2004; Fang and He, 2005; Jiang et al., 2006, 2007; Kaunitz et al., 2011a). In two experiments, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to animal and non-animal/vehicle stimuli in both aware and unaware conditions in a continuous flash suppression (CFS) paradigm. Our results indicate that even in the “unseen” condition, the brain responds differently to animal and non-animal/vehicle images, consistent with rapid activation of animal-selective feature detectors prior to, or outside of, suppression by the CFS mask.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number513
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT2016
StatePublished - Oct 13 2016


  • Animal detection
  • Awareness
  • Continous flash suppression (CFS)
  • ERPs (event-related potentials)
  • Natural scenes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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