The mystery of conscious vision

Why do we have conscious experience? How does the visual system construct a description of reality from retinal images? In my research I am trying to shed some light on a few aspects of this mysterious process of conscious vision.

What we perceive is not only governed by properties of the retinal image but strongly influenced by our state, goals, and expectations. As a postdoc in Marius Peelen's group at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences in Rovereto (Italy) I am currently investigating how such "top-down" influences determine what we see. I am also collaborating with Hironori Akechi, Martin Hebart, Aiste Jusyte, Milena Rabovsky, Kiley Seymour, Volker Thoma, and Sara Verosky.

In my previous research as a doctoral student at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain I have been studying the processing of social visual information, such as bodies, faces, eye gaze, or facial expressions. My advisor was Philipp Sterzer and my co-advisor was John-Dylan Haynes.

Now you see me, now you don't

To study unconscious visual processing and visual awareness I have been using continuous flash suppression.

Move the mouse over the left image to get an impression of this fascinating psychophysical technique developed by Naotsugu Tsuchiya. You just need to put on some cardboard red-blue glasses to see me disappear in the circles. But I'll be back! After a while — let it be seconds, or minutes — I will reappear and break into consciousness.



Battistoni, E., Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (accepted). Preparatory attention in visual cortex. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (accepted). Object detection in natural scenes: Independent effects of spatial and category-based attention. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.

Papeo, L., Stein, T., & Soto-Faraco, S. (accepted). The two-body inversion effect. Psychological Science.


Rabovsky, M., Stein, T., & Abdel Rahman, R. (accepted). Access to awareness for faces during continuous flash suppression is not modulated by affective knowledge. PLoS ONE.

Stein, T., Kaiser, D., & Hesselmann, G. (2016). Can working memory be non-conscious? Neuroscience of Consciousness, 1, 1–3. PDF and Supplement PDF

Stein, T., Siebold, A., & van Zoest, W. (2016, January 4). Testing the idea of privileged awareness of self-relevant information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. PDF

Seymour, K., Rhodes, G., Stein, T., & Langdon, R. (2016). Intact unconscious processing of eye contact in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research: Cognition, 3, 15-19. PDF


Moors, P., Stein, T., Wagemans, J., & van Ee, R. (2015). Serial correlations in continuous flash suppression. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 1, 1–10. PDF

Stein, T., Reeder, R. R., & Peelen, M. V. (2015, December 21). Privileged access to awareness for faces and objects of expertise. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. PDF

Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (2015, October 12). Content-specific expectations enhance stimulus detectability by increasing perceptual sensitivity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. PDF

Akechi, H., Stein, T., Kikuchi, Y., Tojo, Y., Osanai, H., & Hasegawa, T. (2015). Preferential awareness of protofacial stimuli in autism. Cognition, 143, 129-134. PDF

Stein, T., Kaiser, D., & Peelen, M. V. (2015). Interobject grouping facilitates visual awareness. Journal of Vision, 15(8):10, 1-11. Full Text

Reeder, R. R., Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (2015). Perceptual expertise improves category detection in natural scenes. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Online first. PDF

Kaiser, D., Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (2015). Real-world spatial regularities affect visual working memory for objects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Online first. PDF

Stein, T., Thoma, V., & Sterzer, P. (2015). Priming of object detection under continuous flash suppression depends on attention but not on part-whole configuration. Journal of Vision, 15(3):15, 1-11. Full Text


Stein, T., End, A., & Sterzer, P. (2014). Own-race and own-age biases facilitate visual awareness of faces under interocular suppression. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 582. Full Text and PDF

Kaiser, D., Stein, T., & Peelen, M. V. (2014). Object grouping based on real-world regularities facilitates perception by reducing competitive interactions in visual cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 111, 11217-11222. PDF

Akechi, H., Stein, T., Senju, A., Kikuchi, Y., Tojo, Y., Osanai, H., & Hasegawa, T. (2014). Absence of preferential unconscious processing of eye contact in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 7, 590-597. PDF

Sterzer, P., Stein, T., Ludwig, K., Rothkirch, M., & Hesselmann, G. (2014). Neural processing of visual information under interocular suppression: A critical review. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 453. Full Text and PDF

Stein, T., & Sterzer, P. (2014). Unconscious processing under interocular suppression: Getting the right measure. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 387. Full Text and PDF

Stein, T., Seymour, K., Hebart, M. N., & Sterzer, P. (2014). Rapid fear detection relies on high spatial frequencies. Psychological Science, 25, 566-574. PDF and Supplement PDF


Seymour, K., Stein, T., Sanders, L. L. O., Guggenmos, M., Theophil, I., & Sterzer, P. (2013). Altered contextual modulation of primary visual cortex responses in schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38, 2607-2612. PDF


Stein, T., Sterzer, P., & Peelen, M. V. (2012). Privileged detection of conspecifics: Evidence from inversion effects during continuous flash suppression. Cognition, 125, 64-79. PDF

Rothkirch, M., Stein, T., Sekutowicz, M., & Sterzer, P. (2012). A direct oculomotor correlate of unconscious visual processing. Current Biology, 22, R514-R515. Full text

Stein, T., Peelen, M. V., & Sterzer, P. (2012). Eye gaze adaptation under interocular suppression. Journal of Vision, 12(7):1, 1-17. Full text

Stein, T., & Sterzer, P. (2012). Not just another face in the crowd: Detecting emotional schematic faces during continuous flash suppression. Emotion, 12, 988-996. PDF


Stein, T., Peelen, M. V., & Sterzer, P. (2011). Adults' awareness of faces follows newborns' looking preferences. PLoS ONE, 6(12), e29361. Full text and PDF

Stein, T., Hebart, M. N., & Sterzer, P. (2011). Breaking continuous flash suppression: A new measure of unconscious processing during interocular suppression? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5, 167. Full text and PDF

Stein, T., & Sterzer, P. (2011). High-level face shape adaptation depends on visual awareness: Evidence from continuous flash suppression. Journal of Vision, 11(8):5, 1-14. Full text

Stein, T., Senju, A., Peelen, M. V., & Sterzer, P. (2011). Eye contact facilitates awareness of faces during interocular suppression. Cognition, 119, 307-311. PDF


Stein, T., Peelen, M. V., Funk, J., & Seidl, K. N. (2010). The fearful-face advantage is modulated by task demands: Evidence from the attentional blink. Emotion, 10, 136-140. PDF

Stein, T., Zwickel, J., Kitzmantel, M., Ritter, J., & Schneider, W. X. (2010). Irrelevant words trigger an attentional blink. Experimental Psychology, 57, 301-307. PDF


Schroeter, M. L., Stein, T., Maslowski, N., & Neumann, J. (2009). Neural correlates of Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment: A systematic and quantitative meta-analysis involving 1351 patients. Neuroimage, 47, 1196-1206. PDF

Stein, T., Zwickel, J., Ritter, J., Kitzmantel, M., & Schneider, W. X. (2009). The effect of fearful faces on the attentional blink is task dependent. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 104-109. PDF


Stein, T., Vallines, I., & Schneider, W. X. (2008). Primary visual cortex reflects behavioral performance in the attentional blink. Neuroreport, 19, 1277-1281. PDF