Adaptation improves performance on a visual search task

Stephanie C. Wissig, Carlyn A. Patterson, Adam Kohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Temporal context, or adaptation, profoundly affects visual perception. Despite the strength and prevalence of adaptation effects, their functional role in visual processing remains unclear. The effects of spatial context and their functional role are better understood: these effects highlight features that differ from their surroundings and determine stimulus salience. Similarities in the perceptual and physiological effects of spatial and temporal context raise the possibility that they serve similar functions. We therefore tested the possibility that adaptation can enhance stimulus salience. We measured the effects of prolonged (40 s) adaptation to a counterphase grating on performance in a search task in which targets were defined by an orientation offset relative to a background of distracters. We found that, for targets with small orientation offsets, adaptation reduced reaction times and decreased the number of saccades made to find targets. Our results provide evidence that adaptation may function to highlight features that differ from the temporal context in which they are embedded.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Adaptation
  • Orientation discrimination
  • Salience
  • Spatial context
  • Temporal context
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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