Serial dependence and center bias in heading perception from optic flow

J Vis. 2020 Oct 1;20(10):1. doi: 10.1167/jov.20.10.1.


Previous work shows that observers can use information from optic flow to perceive the direction of self-motion (i.e. heading) and that perceived heading exhibits a bias towards the center of the display (center bias). More recent work shows that the brain is sensitive to serial correlations and the perception of current stimuli can be affected by recently seen stimuli, a phenomenon known as serial dependence. In the current study, we examined whether, apart from center bias, serial dependence could be independently observed in heading judgments and how adding noise to optic flow affected center bias and serial dependence. We found a repulsive serial dependence effect in heading judgments after factoring out center bias in heading responses. The serial effect expands heading estimates away from the previously seen heading to increase overall sensitivity to changes in heading directions. Both the center bias and repulsive serial dependence effects increased with increasing noise in optic flow, and the noise-dependent changes in the serial effect were consistent with an ideal observer model. Our results suggest that the center bias effect is due to a prior of the straight-ahead direction in the Bayesian inference account for heading perception, whereas the repulsive serial dependence is an effect that reduces response errors and has the added utility of counteracting the center bias in heading judgments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Bias
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Optic Flow*
  • Young Adult