Attention and Rivalry Suppression: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Volume 15
Issue 4
Sang Chul Chong, Wonyeong Sohn, & Sang-Ah Yoo
The role of attention has been suggested as selecting relevant information to the current objective, thereby enabling the visual system to overcome its limited capacity. On the other hand, there has not been a consensus on the role of rivalry suppression, where one of two different stimuli presented to different eyes becomes invisible. In the current paper, we propose that rivalry suppression serves the same goal as attention. Specifically, we argue that rivalry suppression helps the visual system to carry potentially necessary information without conscious effort and reduce processing loads. In this paper, we elaborate on several important parallels between attention and suppression. First, attended and suppressed information can be considered as indicating the opposite sides of consciousness. Second, unattended information can be invisible much like suppressed information. Third, the neural mechanisms underlying both attention and rivalry suppression have been suggested to be located in the same area, the frontal-parietal cortex. Fourth, the effects of attention and suppression are manifested more in higher visual processing areas and their effect sizes are similar. Finally, attention can bring suppressed information back to the conscious level, if necessary. We conclude that both attention and rivalry suppression reduce the burden on the visual system but in contrasting ways, one selecting only relevant information to the current goal and the other carrying information without conscious effort.

Key words: Attention, Suppression, and Binocular Rivalry