Humans treat 'inferred' visual objects generated by the brain as more reliable than external images from the real world, according to new research published in eLife.
The study, from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, reveals that when choosing between two identical visual objects -- one generated internally based on information from the blind spot and an external one -- we are surprisingly likely to show a bias towards the internal information.
To make sense of the world, humans and animals need to combine information from multiple sources. This is usually done according to how reliable each piece of information is. For example, to know when to cross the street, we usually rely more on what we see than what we hear -- but this can change on a foggy day.
"In such situations with the blind spot, the brain 'fills in' the missing information from its surroundings, resulting in no apparent difference in what we see," says senior author Professor Peter König, from the University of Osnabrück's Institute of Cognitive Science. "While this fill-in is normally accurate enough, it is mostly unreliable because no actual information from the real world ever reaches the brain. We wanted to find out if we typically handle this filled-in information differently to real, direct sensory information, or whether we treat it as equal."