Our everyday experience suggests that the world is exactly as we
perceive it. However, the information available via our senses is a
priori incomplete, noisy and may allow for more than one
interpretation (see Figs. 1 and 2). As a consequence, the
distinction between reality and illusion is limited by the capacity
of our perceptual system and the reliability of our memories.
Perception is thus a core area of psychophysical interaction and
the mind-matter debate. Perceptual illusions and perceptual
anomalies can be experienced as exceptional perceptual experiences
and can lead to altered and sometimes unstable states of
consciousness. Perceptual anomalies can also be consequences of
altered and/or unstable perceptual and consciousness states.
We study the processes underlying stable and unstable perception and
perceptual anomalies in order to better understand the
psychophysical relations. Particularly, we use ambiguous stimuli to
induce unstable perceptual states in highly controlled lab
environments. Unstable perceptual states serve as model states for
unstable mental states that are often observed in people with
exceptional experiences or people in altered states of
consciousness. With psychophysical methods, eye-movement recordings
and EEG, functional MRI and recently also with methods from
artificial intelligence, we try to better understand the processes
underlying unstable perceptual and mental states.
In cooperation with the Department
of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Medical Center of the
University of Freiburg and the Psychiatric
Hospital Strasbourg, France we investigate in this context
patients with psychiatric disorders, who also show altered
perceptual and conscious states, in order to test our
models and hypotheses derived thereof. Concurrently, we also
try to better understand the focused disorders.
Adelson EH (1993). Perceptual organization and the judgment of brightness.
Science (New York, N.Y.),262(5142), 2042-2044 .
Hill H & Johnston A (2007). The hollow-face illusion: Object-specific
knowledge, general assumptions or properties of the stimulus?
Perception, 36(2), 199-223.