Sensory and decision-making processes underlying perceptual adaptation

Nathan Witthoft, Long Sha, Jonathan Winawer, Roozbeh Kiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perceptual systems adapt to their inputs. As a result, prolonged exposure to particular stimuli alters judgments about subsequent stimuli. This phenomenon is commonly assumed to be sensory in origin. Changes in the decision-making process, however, may also be a component of adaptation. Here, we quantify sensory and decision-making contributions to adaptation in a facial expression paradigm. As expected, exposure to happy or sad expressions shifts the psychometric function toward the adaptor. More surprisingly, response times show both an overall decline and an asymmetry, with faster responses opposite the adapting category, implicating a substantial change in the decision-making process. Specifically, we infer that sensory changes from adaptation are accompanied by changes in how much sensory information is accumulated for the two choices. We speculate that adaptation influences implicit expectations about the stimuli one will encounter, causing modifications in the decision-making process as part of a normative response to a change in context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Adaptation
  • Decision bound
  • Facial expression
  • Reaction time
  • Sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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