Adaptive procedures in psychophysical research

Percept Psychophys. 2001 Nov;63(8):1279-92. doi: 10.3758/bf03194543.


As research on sensation and perception has grown more sophisticated during the last century, new adaptive methodologies have been developed to increase efficiency and reliability of measurement. An experimental procedure is said to be adaptive if the physical characteristics of the stimuli on each trial are determined by the stimuli and responses that occurred in the previous trial or sequence of trials. In this paper, the general development of adaptive procedures is described, and three commonly used methods are reviewed. Typically, a threshold value is measured using these methods, and, in some cases, other characteristics of the psychometric function underlying perceptual performance, such as slope, may be developed. Results of simulations and experiments with human subjects are reviewed to evaluate the utility of these adaptive procedures and the special circumstances under which one might be superior to another.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Perception*
  • Psychophysics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sensation*
  • Sensory Thresholds