Invisibility is often thought to occur because of the low-level limitations of the visual system. For example, it is often assumed that backward masking renders a target invisible because the visual system is simply too slow to resolve the target and the mask separately. Here, we propose an alternative explanation in which invisibility is a goal rather than a limitation and occurs naturally when making sense out of the plethora of incoming information. For example, we present evidence that (in)visibility of an element can strongly depend on how it groups with other elements. Changing grouping changes visibility. In addition, we will show that features often just appear to be invisible but are in fact visible in a way the experimenter is not aware of.
This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) project “Basics of visual processing: from retinotopic encoding to non-retinotopic representations.”