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Published March 2015 | public
Journal Article Open

Competition with and without priority control: linking rivalry to attention through winner-take-all networks with memory


Competition is ubiquitous in perception. For example, items in the visual field compete for processing resources, and attention controls their priority (biased competition). The inevitable ambiguity in the interpretation of sensory signals yields another form of competition: distinct perceptual interpretations compete for access to awareness. Rivalry, where two equally likely percepts compete for dominance, explicates the latter form of competition. Building upon the similarity between attention and rivalry, we propose to model rivalry by a generic competitive circuit that is widely used in the attention literature—a winner-take-all (WTA) network. Specifically, we show that a network of two coupled WTA circuits replicates three common hallmarks of rivalry: the distribution of dominance durations, their dependence on input strength ("Levelt's propositions"), and the effects of stimulus removal (blanking). This model introduces a form of memory by forming discrete states and explains experimental data better than competitive models of rivalry without memory. This result supports the crucial role of memory in rivalry specifically and in competitive processes in general. Our approach unifies the seemingly distinct phenomena of rivalry, memory, and attention in a single model with competition as the common underlying principle.

Additional Information

© 2015 The Authors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published by Wiley Periodicals Inc. on behalf of The New York Academy of Sciences. Issue published online: 23 Mar 2015. Article first published online: 7 Jan 2015. This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through Grant No. EI 852/3 (W.E.), the IRTG 1901 "The brain in action" (W.E., S.M.), SFB/TRR135 (W.E.), the GRK 1589/1 (G.G.), the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation (U.R.), and by an NIH Conte Center Grant Grant No. 5P50MH094258 (U.R.). S.M., G.G., U.R. and W.E. conceived the study; S.M., G.G., and U.R. conducted the modeling; S.M. and D.W. designed, conducted, and analyzed the experimental data; and S.M., U.R., and W.E. wrote the paper.

Attached Files

Supplemental Material - nyas12575-sup-0001-FigureS1.docx

Supplemental Material - nyas12575-sup-0002-TableS1.docx


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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023