Among the varied phases of human cognition, the very moment when an idea flashes into one's mind is one of the most dramatic perceptual changes, involving a transition from the unconscious to conscious state. Throughout human history, there has been a rich accumulation of episodes of such insightful moments. For instance, the story about Archimedes exclaiming "Eureka!" when he took a bath and found a new principle is well known (Vitruvius, ca. 27 B.C.). These are special cases of learning where the learning process occurs suddenly and is completed in a very short time (one-shot learning). Synchronous activities spread over a wide area in the brain have been found to correlate with the subject's perception (Varela et al, 1999).
Here we study the cognitive process of visual one-shot learning using a combination of hidden figure perception presented in a binocular rivalry condition. By examining the temporality involved, we reveal the nature of reversible and irreversible dynamics characterizing these phenomena. We argue that in spite of the striking differences in the phenomenology, binocular rivalry and hidden figure perception share common features involving a matching between top-down and bottom up processes.