Bayesian sampling in visual perception
It is well-established that some aspects of perception and action can be understood as probabilistic inferences over underlying probability distributions. In some situations, it would be advantageous for the nervous system to sample interpretations from a probability distribution rather than commit to a particular interpretation. In this study, we asked whether visual percepts correspond to samples from the probability distribution over image interpretations, a form of sampling that we refer to as Bayesian sampling. To test this idea, we manipulated pairs of sensory cues in a bistable display consisting of two superimposed moving drifting gratings, and we asked subjects to report their perceived changes in depth ordering. We report that the fractions of dominance of each percept follow the multiplicative rule predicted by Bayesian sampling. Furthermore, we show that attractor neural networks can sample probability distributions if input currents add linearly and encode probability distributions with probabilistic population codes.