Humans treat unreliable filled-in percepts as more real than veridical ones


Humans often evaluate sensory signals according to their reliability for optimal decision-making. However, how do we evaluate percepts generated in the absence of direct input that are, therefore, completely unreliable? Here we utilize the phenomenon of filling-in occurring at the physiological
blind-spots to compare partially inferred and veridical percepts. Subjects chose between stimuli that elicit filling-in, and perceptually equivalent ones presented outside the blind-spots, looking for a Gabor stimulus without a small orthogonal inset. In ambiguous conditions, when the stimuli were
physically identical and the inset was absent in both, subjects behaved opposite to optimal, preferring the blind-spot stimulus as the better example of a collinear stimulus, even though no relevant veridical information was available. Thus, a percept that is partially inferred is paradoxically considered more reliable than a percept based on external input. In other words: Humans treat filled-in inferred percepts as more real than veridical ones.