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Michele Fornaciai, Joonkoo Park; Serial dependence in numerosity perception. Journal of Vision 2018;18(9):15. doi: 10.1167/18.9.15.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Our conscious experience of the external world is remarkably stable and seamless, despite the intrinsically discontinuous and noisy nature of sensory information. Serial dependencies in visual perception—reflecting attractive biases making a current stimulus to appear more similar to previous ones—have been recently hypothesized to be involved in perceptual continuity. However, while these effects have been observed across a variety of visual features and at the neural level, several aspects of serial dependence and how it generalizes across visual dimensions is still unknown. Here we explore the behavioral signature of serial dependence in numerosity perception by assessing how the perceived numerosity of dot-array stimuli is biased by a task-irrelevant “inducer” stimulus presented before task-relevant stimuli. First, although prior work suggests that numerosity perception starts in the subcortex, the current study rules out a possible involvement of subcortical processing in serial dependence, confirming that the effect likely starts in the visual cortex. Second, we show that the effect is coarsely spatially localized to the position of the inducer stimulus. Third, we demonstrate that the effect is present even with a stimulus presentation procedure minimizing the involvement of post-perceptual processes, but only when participants actively pay attention to the inducer stimulus. Overall, these results provide a comprehensive characterization of serial dependencies in numerosity perception, demonstrating that attractive biases occur by means of spatially localized attentional modulations of early sensory activity.
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