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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Serial dependence promotes object stability during occlusion

  • Author(s): Liberman, Alina
  • Zhang, Kathy
  • Whitney, David
  • et al.

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Object identities somehow appear stable and continuous over time despite eye movements, disruptions in visibility, and constantly changing visual input. Recent results have demonstrated that the perception of orientation, numerosity, and facial identity is systematically biased (i.e., pulled) toward visual input from the recent past. The spatial region over which current orientations or face identities are pulled by previous orientations or identities, respectively, is known as the continuity field, which is temporally tuned over the past several seconds (Fischer & Whitney, 2014). This perceptual pull could contribute to the visual stability of objects over short time periods, but does it also address how perceptual stability occurs during visual discontinuities? Here, we tested whether the continuity field helps maintain perceived object identity during occlusion. Specifically, we found that the perception of an oriented Gabor that emerged from behind an occluder was significantly pulled toward the random (and unrelated) orientation of the Gabor that was seen entering the occluder. Importantly, this serial dependence was stronger for predictable, continuously moving trajectories, compared to unpredictable ones or static displacements. This result suggests that our visual system takes advantage of expectations about a stable world, helping to maintain perceived object continuity despite interrupted visibility.

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