In this demonstration you can test the effect of rate of presentation on your ability to control three different perceptual aspects of the computer display: a configuration (circle or square), transition (clockwise or counterclockwise movement) or sequence (small, medium, large or small, large, medium). The three buttons at the bottom of the display determine the rate of presentation ("Fast", "Medium" or "Slow") of these aspects of the display. You start a test trial by pressing one of these buttons. A test trial lasts from about 30 seconds (for the "Fast" display rate) to one minute and 30 seconds (for the "Slow" display rate).
During a trial you can control a configuration, transition or sequence perception by keeping it in a reference state, protected from disturbances produced by the computer. You do this by pressing the space bar on your keyboard whenever the computer "pushes" the perception you are controlling away from its reference state. For example, you can control the configuration perception, keeping it in the reference state "circle", by pressing the space bar when you see that the computer has disturbed this perception, changing it to "square". Pressing the space bar will return the perception to "circle". You can control the transition and sequence perceptions in the same way. For example, you can keep the transition perception in the reference state "clockwise" by pressing the space bar when the computer "pushes" the perception to "counterclockwise". And you can keep the sequence perception in the reference state "small, medium, large" by pressing the space bar when the computer pushes this perception to "medium, small, large".
Your ability to control these perceptions will depend on the rate at which the elements of the perception occur. If you select the "Fast" button, the elements of all three perceptions are presented at a very high speed. At this speed you will only be able to control the configuration perception since it is the only perception that is visible. If you select the "Medium" button, the elements of all three perceptions are presented at a moderate speed and you will be able to perceive and control either the configuration or the transition perception. You will only be able to control the sequence perception when the elements of the perception occur at a very slow rate, as they do when you press the "Slow" button.
When you have completed a trial you will see a display of the results in terms of proportion of time during a trial that each perception was maintained in a reference state. The computer assumes that the reference for configuration is "circle", the reference for transition is "clockwise" and the reference for sequence is "small, medium, large". If a percpetoin was not being controlled the proportion on target measure for that perception will be close to 0.5. If the perceptoin was being controlled the on target measure for that perception will be close to 1.0 (if the perception was being maintained in the assumed reference state) or close to 0.0 ( of the perception was being maintained in the "opposite" reference state (if, for example, you were trying to keep the configuration "square" rather than "circle".
Try doing this demonstration at all three display speeds. What you will find is that you can only control the configuration perception when the display speed is "Fast", even though the configurations are transitioning and sequencing as they do at the slower display speeds. And you will also find that you can control all three perceptions (on different trials, of course) when the display speed is "Slow".
People perceive and control many different types of perceptions at the same time. Some of these perceptions are simple, like the perception of the loudness of sounds coming from the radio. Others are very complex, like the perception of the fact that the sounds coming from the radio are a Mozart Piano Concerto. Complex perceptions (like the Piano Concerto) are made up of simple perceptions (like the loudness of the notes); we perceive and control a hierarchy of perceptions.
Under normal circumstances we experience (and control) perceptions at all levels of the perceptual hierarchy, simple and complex, simultaneously. This demonstration shows one way to peel back the layers of this hierarchy by varying the speed of the sensory components from which perceptions are constructed. When sensory components occur quickly your brain only has time to construct simple perceptions (like configurations) which are the building blocks of the more complex perceptions (like transitions and sequences).
The sensory components of the perceptions in this demonstration are the figures that appear at different locations on the screen. When the speed of these sensory components is "Fast" you can perceive (and control) the shape of the figures (circle, square) but you cannot see the temporal transition from one figure to another than gives rise to the perception of movement (transition). The transition is physically present in the display but your brain doesn't have time to construct a perception of it. Because you cannot perceive movement when the speed of the sensory components is "Fast" you also cannot control the directoin of movement (transition).
When the speed of the sensory components is "Medium" you can clearly perceive (and control) the movement of the figures but you cannot see the sequential order in which the figures occur ("small, medium and large" or vice versa). The size sequence is, again, physically present but your brain doesn't have time to construct a perception of it. Because you cannot perceive sequence when the speed of the sensory components is "Medium" you also cannot control it.
When the speed of the sensory components is "Slow" you can clearly perceive (and control) the sequence of figure size (keeping this sequence at "small, medium and large"). Indeed, at this slow speed all three perceptual dimensions of the sensory components are visible. You could, if you wished, control the configuration, transition or sequence of the figures.
The difference in the speed at which these different perceptions can be controlled reflect a difference in the level at which these perceptoins are controlled in the perceptual control hierarchy. It takes longer to complete the loop that controls a sequence perception than it does to complete the loop that controls a transition or configuration perception because the sequence control loop has to go through more "layers" of nervous system than does the transition or sequence contorl loop. This aspect of the demonstration is described in more detail in this paper.
Your ability to control something depends on your ability to perceive it. If you try to control for a clockwise transitoin when the speed of the display is "Fast" you will find that your control of this transition perception is near chance (.5 on target). Similarly, if you try to control for the "small, medium, large" sequence when the speed of the sensory components is "Medium" you will find that your control of this sequence perception is near chance (.5 on targe). Notice, in particular, that even though at the "Medium" preentation rate you are able to see every component of the sequence (the small, medium and large figures) and that these components occur one after the other you still cannot see the order in which these components. When the speed of the components is "Medium" you can see two types of perceptions (configuration and transition) but you can't see the perception that depends on these lower level perceptions: the perception of sequence.
As with all control tasks, the results of this demonstration are clearest when you are able to skillfully control each perception. It is, therefore, worth it to practice controlling each perception for two or three sessions before looking your the results. It is particularly difficult to control the sequence perception. It may take you several sessions before you can skillfully control the size sequence (keeping it at "small, medium, large") at the speed used in this demonstration.