Understanding Dali's 'Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire': a case study in the scale information driving perception

Lizann Bonnar, Frédéric Gosselin, Philippe G Schyns

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27 Citations (Scopus)


A generic problem in vision is to know which information drives the perception of a stimulus. We address this problem in a case study that involves the perceptual reversal of an ambiguous image (here, Dali's painting the Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire 1940). In experiment 1, we use 'bubbles' (Gosselin and Schyns, 2001 Vision Research 41 2261-2271) to disambiguate the image and to determine the specific visual information that drives each possible perception (here, the nuns versus the bust of Voltaire). Experiment 2 validates that this information does determine the selective perception of the ambiguous image. We adapted the spatial-frequency channels of observers selectively to the information that mediates one of the two perceptions, to induce the opposite perception of the ambiguous image in a transfer phase. Together, the results suggest a method of revealing the visual information that drives perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-691
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2002



  • visual perception
  • attention
  • ambiguity
  • art
  • cognitive psychology

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