Predictive context biases binocular rivalry onset in children and adults
Expectations based on prior knowledge shape perceptual experience, which might also be relevant for high-level perceptual skills such as the ability to understand other peoples’ thoughts and intentions, called Theory of Mind (ToM). We tested whether the extent to which expectations influence perception correlates with individual differences in ToM in children (12–13 years) and adults (18–25 years). In both age groups, perceptual expectations induced by a predictive temporal context reliably modulated the onset of binocular rivalry (BR), on average, to a similar degree. In contrast, adult participants scored better on measures
of ToM compared to children. In both groups, we observed considerable interindividual variability regarding the influence of a predictive context on BR, which were closely associated with differences in sensory eye dominance. The influence of expectations on basic visual processes is fully developed at an earlier age, whereas high-level perceptual skills continue to evolve from adolescence to adulthood. The lack of any positive association between predictive effects on perception and individual ToM performance suggests that expectation effects on early perceptual phenomena such as BR, and high-level ToM-related skills stem from dissociable neurocognitive mechanisms.