Temporal structure coding with and without awareness


In order to interpret a constantly changing environment, visual events far apart in space and time must be integrated into a unified percept. While spatial properties of invisible signals are known to be encoded without awareness, the fate of temporal properties remains largely unknown. Here, we probed temporal integration for two distinct motion stimuli that were either visible or rendered invisible using continuous flash suppression. We found that when invisible, both the direction of apparent motion and the gender of point-light walkers were processed only when defined across short time periods (i.e., respectively 100ms and 1000ms). This limitation was not observed under full visibility. These similar findings at two different hierarchical levels of processing suggest that temporal integration windows shrink in the absence of perceptual awareness. We discuss this phenomenon as a key prediction of the global neuronal workspace and the information integration theories of consciousness.