Subjective value determines initial dominance in binocular rivalry

Emily Balcetis, David Dunning, Yael Granot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does subjective reward value influence early visual perception? During binocular rivalry, one eye receives an image that is incompatible with the image the other eye receives. People consciously experience perceiving one image; the other image is suppressed from conscious awareness. We tested if subjective value functions as an endogenous influence (i.e., one internal to the perceiver) on dominance during rivalry. Images associated with rewards achieved initial perceptual dominance more often than images associated with cost (Studies 1-3). Value facilitated perception of rewarding images but did not inhibit perception of costly images (Study 3). Additionally, when rewards benefited a disliked person, no bias in perceptual dominance was observed. Subjective value biased dominance despite accuracy incentives and was not explained by frequency of exposure, implicit learning, response bias, or task-specific accessibility. We discuss implications for the influence of motivated influences on perception, a phenomenon we call wishful seeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Binocular rivalry
  • Motivation
  • New look
  • Reward
  • Visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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