Denham, S. L., Bendixen, A., Mill, R., Toth, D., Wennekers, T., Coath, M., Bohm, T. M., Szalardy, O., & Winkler, I. (2012). Characterising switching behaviour in perceptual multi-stability. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 210, 79-92.

Characterising switching behaviour in perceptual multi-stability

When people experience an unchanging sensory input for a long period of time, their perception tends to switch stochastically and unavoidably between alternative interpretations of the sensation; a phenomenon known as perceptual bi-stability or multi-stability. The huge variability in the experimental data obtained in such paradigms makes it difficult to distinguish typical patterns of behaviour, or to identify differences between switching patterns. Here we propose a new approach to characterising switching behaviour based upon the extraction of transition matrices from the data, which provide a compact representation that is well-understood mathematically. On the basis of this representation we can characterise patterns of perceptual switching, visualise and simulate typical switching patterns, and calculate the likelihood of observing a particular switching pattern. The proposed method can support comparisons between different observers, experimental conditions and even experiments. We demonstrate the insights offered by this approach using examples from our experiments investigating multi-stability in auditory streaming. However, the methodology is generic and thus widely applicable in studies of multi-stability in any domain.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
Phone: +49 341 97-39540
Email: d dot thieme at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271