Serial Effects are optimal, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (41).

In the target article, Rahnev & Denison (R&D) use serial effects as an example of suboptimality. We show here that serial effects can be beneficial to perception, serving to reduce both error and response times in a near-optimal fashion. Furthermore, serial effects for stable attributes are positive, whereas those for changeable attributes are negative, demonstrating that they are engaged flexibly to optimize performance.

Past visual experiences weigh in on body size estimation, Scientific Reports, 1 (8),

Body size is a salient marker of physical health, with extremes implicated in various mental and physical health issues. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms of perception of body size of self and others. We report a novel technique we term the bodyline, based on the numberline technique in numerosity studies. One hundred and three young women judged the size of sequentially presented female body images by positioning a marker on a line, delineated with images of extreme sizes. Participants performed this task easily and well, with average standard deviations less than 6% of the total scale. Critically, judgments of size were biased towards the previously viewed body, demonstrating that serial dependencies occur in the judgment of body size. The magnitude of serial dependence was well predicted by a simple Kalman-filter ideal-observer model, suggesting that serial dependence occurs in an optimal, adaptive way to improve performance in size judgments.

Visual Perception: To Curve or Not to Curve, Current Biology, 4 (28), R150-R152.

A popular new illusion shows that the apparent curvature of sinusoidal contours depends on contrast and background luminance. We suggest that the illusion is driven by segmentation mechanisms of human vision, which isolate the contours into smaller segments, some which approximate straight lines, others curves.

Cortical BOLD responses to moderate- and high-speed motion in the human visual cortex, Sci Rep, 1 (8), 8357.

We investigated the BOLD response of visual cortical and sub-cortical regions to fast drifting motion presented over wide fields, including the far periphery. Stimuli were sinusoidal gratings of 50% contrast moving at moderate and very high speeds (38 and 570 °/s), projected to a large field of view (~60°). Both stimuli generated strong and balanced responses in the lateral geniculate nucleus and the superior colliculus. In visual cortical areas, responses were evaluated at three different eccentricities: central 0-15°; peripheral 20-30°; and extreme peripheral 30-60°. “Ventral stream” areas (V2, V3, V4) preferred moderate-speeds in the central visual field, while motion area MT+ responded equally well to both speeds at all eccentricities. In all other areas and eccentricities BOLD responses were significant and equally strong for both types of moving stimuli. Support vector machine showed that the direction of the fast-speed motion could be successfully decoded from the BOLD response in all visual areas, suggesting that responses are mediated by motion mechanisms rather than being an unspecific preference for fast rate of flicker. The results show that the visual cortex responds to very fast motion, at speeds generated when we move our eyes rapidly, or when moving objects pass by closely.

Independent adaptation mechanisms for numerosity and size perception provide evidence against a common sense of magnitude, Sci Rep, 1 (8), 13571.

How numerical quantity is processed is a central issue for cognition. On the one hand the “number sense theory” claims that numerosity is perceived directly, and may represent an early precursor for acquisition of mathematical skills. On the other, the “theory of magnitude” notes that numerosity correlates with many continuous properties such as size and density, and may therefore not exist as an independent feature, but be part of a more general system of magnitude. In this study we examined interactions in sensitivity between numerosity and size perception. In a group of children, we measured psychophysically two sensory parameters: perceptual adaptation and discrimination thresholds for both size and numerosity. Neither discrimination thresholds nor adaptation strength for numerosity and size correlated across participants. This clear lack of correlation (confirmed by Bayesian analyses) suggests that numerosity and size interference effects are unlikely to reflect a shared sensory representation. We suggest these small interference effects may rather result from top-down phenomena occurring at late decisional levels rather than a primary “sense of magnitude”.

Simultaneous and sequential subitizing are separate systems, and neither predicts math abilities, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, (178), 86-103.

Small quantities of visual objects can be rapidly estimated without error, a phenomenon known as subitizing. Larger quantities can also be rapidly estimated, but with error, and the error rate predicts math abilities. This study addressed two issues: (a) whether subitizing generalizes over modalities and stimulus formats and (b) whether subitizing correlates with math abilities. We measured subitizing limits in primary school children and adults for visual and auditory stimuli presented either sequentially (sequences of flashes or sounds) or simultaneously (visual presentations, dot arrays). The results show that (a) subitizing limits for adults were one item larger than those for primary school children across all conditions; (b) subitizing for simultaneous visual stimuli (dots) was better than that for sequential stimuli; (c) subitizing limits for dots do not correlate with subitizing limits for either flashes or sounds; (d) subitizing of sequences of flashes and subitizing of sequences of sounds are strongly correlated with each other in children; and (e) regardless of stimuli sensory modality and format, subitizing limits do not correlate with mental calculation or digit magnitude knowledge proficiency. These results suggest that although children can subitize sequential numerosity, simultaneous and temporal subitizing may be subserved by separate systems. Furthermore, subitizing does not seem to be related to numerical abilities.

Temporal Coding of Visual Space, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10 (22), 883-895.

Establishing a representation of space is a major goal of sensory systems. Spatial information, however, is not always explicit in the incoming sensory signals. In most modalities it needs to be actively extracted from cues embedded in the temporal flow of receptor activation. Vision, on the other hand, starts with a sophisticated optical imaging system that explicitly preserves spatial information on the retina. This may lead to the assumption that vision is predominantly a spatial process: all that is needed is to transmit the retinal image to the cortex, like uploading a digital photograph, to establish a spatial map of the world. However, this deceptively simple analogy is inconsistent with theoretical models and experiments that study visual processing in the context of normal motor behavior. We argue here that, as with other senses, vision relies heavily on temporal strategies and temporal neural codes to extract and represent spatial information.