Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 2245–2253 | Cite as

Serial dependence in position occurs at the time of perception

  • Mauro Manassi
  • Alina Liberman
  • Anna Kosovicheva
  • Kathy Zhang
  • David Whitney
Brief Report


Observers perceive objects in the world as stable over space and time, even though the visual experience of those objects is often discontinuous and distorted due to masking, occlusion, camouflage, or noise. How are we able to easily and quickly achieve stable perception in spite of this constantly changing visual input? It was previously shown that observers experience serial dependence in the perception of features and objects, an effect that extends up to 15 seconds back in time. Here, we asked whether the visual system utilizes an object’s prior physical location to inform future position assignments in order to maximize location stability of an object over time. To test this, we presented subjects with small targets at random angular locations relative to central fixation in the peripheral visual field. Subjects reported the perceived location of the target on each trial by adjusting a cursor’s position to match its location. Subjects made consistent errors when reporting the perceived position of the target on the current trial, mislocalizing it toward the position of the target in the preceding two trials (Experiment 1). This pull in position perception occurred even when a response was not required on the previous trial (Experiment 2). In addition, we show that serial dependence in perceived position occurs immediately after stimulus presentation, and it is a fast stabilization mechanism that does not require a delay (Experiment 3). This indicates that serial dependence occurs for position representations and facilitates the stable perception of objects in space. Taken together with previous work, our results show that serial dependence occurs at many stages of visual processing, from initial position assignment to object categorization.


Serial effects Sequential effects Perceptual stability 



This work was supported in part by the Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship P2ELP3_158876 (M.M.) and NSF graduate research fellowships (NSF-GRFP) to A.K. and A.L. This work was originally presented at Vision Science Society Annual Meeting in 2014. We would like to thank Daniel Bliss for useful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Helen Wills Neuroscience InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Vision Science GroupUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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