A Bayesian Model of Conditioned Perception

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Alan A. Stocker, Eero Simoncelli


We propose an extended probabilistic model for human perception. We argue that in many circumstances, human observers simultaneously evaluate sensory evidence under different hypotheses regarding the underlying physical process that might have generated the sensory information. Within this context, inference can be optimal if the observer weighs each hypothesis according to the correct belief in that hypothesis. But if the observer commits to a particular hypothesis, the belief in that hypothesis is converted into subjective certainty, and subsequent perceptual behavior is suboptimal, conditioned only on the chosen hypothesis. We demonstrate that this framework can explain psychophysical data of a recently reported decision-estimation experiment. The model well accounts for the data, predicting the same estimation bias as a consequence of the preceding decision step. The power of the framework is that it has no free parameters except the degree of the observer's uncertainty about its internal sensory representation. All other parameters are defined by the particular experiment which allows us to make quantitative predictions of human perception to two modifications of the original experiment.