Multi-feature objects elicit nonconscious priming despite crowding


The conscious representation we build from the visual environment appears jumbled in the periphery, reflecting a phenomenon known as crowding. Yet, it remains possible that object-level representations (i.e., resulting from the binding of the stimulus’ different features) are preserved even if they are not consciously accessible. With a paradigm involving gaze-contingent substitution, which allows us to ensure the constant absence of peripheral stimulus discrimination, we show that, despite their jumbled appearance, multi-feature crowded objects, such as faces and directional symbols, are encoded in a nonconscious manner and can influence subsequent behavior. Furthermore, we show that the encoding of complex crowded contents is modulated by attention in the absence of consciousness. These results, in addition to bringing new insights concerning the fate of crowded information, illustrate the potential of the Gaze-Contingent Crowding (GCC) approach for probing nonconscious cognition.

Journal of vision