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Unmasking the standing wave of invisibility: An account in terms of apparent motion and representational updating.

A central bar presented in counterphase with two flanking bars creates the perception of only two bars, instead of three, flickering (standing wave of invisibility illusion). Current explanations of this illusion highlight the importance of local interactions between the central bar and the flankers as a reason for the invisibility of the central bar. In three experiments, we show that the reduction in visibility of the central bar occurs even when the flankers are spatially separated from the central bar. Thus local mechanisms-low-level lateral inhibition or border-ownership competition-do not suffice to account for the decreased visibility. Furthermore, the reduced visibility of the central bar is accompanied by the perception of the flankers in apparent motion at all separations. We suggest an account of the standing wave phenomenon in terms of object updating: The representation of the central bar is updated with the representation of the flankers leaving the perception of just the flankers moving across space. The stimuli for the key conditions from this study, in QuickTime format, may be down loaded from http://app.psychonomic-journals.org/content/supplemental.