Independent Effects of Adaptation and Attention on Perceived Speed

Katharina Anton-Erxleben, Katrin Herrmann, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptation and attention are two mechanisms by which sensory systems manage limited bioenergetic resources: Whereas adaptation decreases sensitivity to stimuli just encountered, attention increases sensitivity to behaviorally relevant stimuli. In the visual system, these changes in sensitivity are accompanied by a change in the appearance of different stimulus dimensions, such as speed. Adaptation causes an underestimation of speed, whereas attention leads to an overestimation of speed. In the two experiments reported here, we investigated whether the effects of these mechanisms interact and how they affect the appearance of stimulus features. We tested the effects of adaptation and the subsequent allocation of attention on perceived speed. A quickly moving adaptor decreased the perceived speed of subsequent stimuli, whereas a slow adaptor did not alter perceived speed. Attention increased perceived speed regardless of the adaptation effect, which indicates that adaptation and attention affect perceived speed independently. Moreover, the finding that attention can alter perceived speed after adaptation indicates that adaptation is not merely a by-product of neuronal fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-159
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • attention
  • visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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