Serial dependence in visual perception

Nat Neurosci. 2014 May;17(5):738-43. doi: 10.1038/nn.3689. Epub 2014 Mar 30.


Visual input often arrives in a noisy and discontinuous stream, owing to head and eye movements, occlusion, lighting changes, and many other factors. Yet the physical world is generally stable; objects and physical characteristics rarely change spontaneously. How then does the human visual system capitalize on continuity in the physical environment over time? We found that visual perception in humans is serially dependent, using both prior and present input to inform perception at the present moment. Using an orientation judgment task, we found that, even when visual input changed randomly over time, perceived orientation was strongly and systematically biased toward recently seen stimuli. Furthermore, the strength of this bias was modulated by attention and tuned to the spatial and temporal proximity of successive stimuli. These results reveal a serial dependence in perception characterized by a spatiotemporally tuned, orientation-selective operator-which we call a continuity field-that may promote visual stability over time.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pseudouridine / analogs & derivatives
  • Psychophysics
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Pseudouridine
  • pseudouridinedicarboxaldehyde