, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 37-48

Selective adaptation with reversible figures: Don’t change that channel


An adaptation-test paradigm was used in two experiments examining processes underlying the perceived reversals of a rotating Necker cube. Adaptation and test cubes were either the same or different with respect to their visual fields of presentation (Experiment 1) or their sizes (Experiment 2). Results of both experiments indicated that, following subjects’ adaptation to a different cube, reversal rate of the test cube did not differ from that obtained without prior adaptation experience. In contrast, reversal rate of the test cube was elevated following adaptation to the same cube. Additional findings of Experiment 1 were that a test cube presented to the same visual field as the adaptation cube yielded a higher reversal rate than did a simultaneously presented cube in the opposite visual field. Also, the reversal rate of one cube was not influenced by the simultaneous presentation of a second cube. Results of both experiments were interpreted in terms of the fatigue and recovery of multiple, largely independent, localized neural channels. Thus, the results tie reversible-figure illusions to other visual phenomena thought to involve similar fatigue processes within localized visual channels (e.g., tilt, motion, and size aftereffects).

This research was supported in part by Grant 1 R03 MH38197-01A1 from the National Institute of Mental Health to the first author and by Grant 1 R03 EY05846-01 from the National Eye Institute to the second author. Various aspects of the data contained in this article were presented at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in San Antonio, November 1984, and at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Sarasota, May 1986.