The flash-lag effect and related mislocalizations: findings, properties, and theories

Psychol Bull. 2014 Jan;140(1):308-38. doi: 10.1037/a0032899. Epub 2013 Jun 24.


If an observer sees a flashed (briefly presented) object that is aligned with a moving target, the perceived position of the flashed object usually lags the perceived position of the moving target. This has been referred to as the flash-lag effect, and the flash-lag effect has been suggested to reflect how an observer compensates for delays in perception that are due to neural processing times and is thus able to interact with dynamic stimuli in real time. Characteristics of the stimulus and of the observer that influence the flash-lag effect are reviewed, and the sensitivity or robustness of the flash-lag effect to numerous variables is discussed. Properties of the flash-lag effect and how the flash-lag effect might be related to several other perceptual and cognitive processes and phenomena are considered. Unresolved empirical issues are noted. Theories of the flash-lag effect are reviewed, and evidence inconsistent with each theory is noted. The flash-lag effect appears to involve low-level perceptual processes and high-level cognitive processes, reflects the operation of multiple mechanisms, occurs in numerous stimulus dimensions, and occurs within and across multiple modalities. It is suggested that the flash-lag effect derives from more basic mislocalizations of the moving target or flashed object and that understanding and analysis of the flash-lag effect should focus on these more basic mislocalizations rather than on the relationship between the moving target and the flashed object.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*