Serial dependence in a simulated clinical visual search task

Mauro Manassi* (Corresponding Author), Arni Kristjánsson, David Whitney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


In everyday life, we continuously search for and classify objects in the environment around us. This kind of visual search is extremely important when performed by radiologists in cancer image interpretation and officers in airport security screening. During these tasks, observers often examine large numbers of uncorrelated images (tumor x-rays, checkpoint x-rays, etc.) one after another. An underlying assumption of such tasks is that search and recognition are independent of our past experience. Here, we simulated a visual search task reminiscent of medical image search and found that shape classification performance was strongly impaired by recent visual experience, biasing classification errors 7% more towards the previous image content. This perceptual attraction exhibited the three main tuning characteristics of Continuity Fields: serial dependence extended over 12 seconds back in time (temporal tuning), it occurred only between similar tumor-like shapes (feature tuning), and only within a limited spatial region (spatial tuning). Taken together, these results demonstrate that serial dependence influences shape perception and occurs in visual search tasks. They also raise the possibility of a detrimental impact of serial dependence in clinical and practically relevant settings, such as medical image perception.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19937
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Allison Yamanashi, Yuki Murai, and Zhimin Chen for helpful comments on data analysis and preliminary drafts of the manuscript. This work was supported in part by the Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship P2ELP3_158876 (M.M.).

Author Correction: Serial dependence in a simulated clinical visual search task (Scientific Reports, (2019), 9, 1, (19937), 10.1038/s41598-019-56315-z)


  • object vision
  • pattern vision


Dive into the research topics of 'Serial dependence in a simulated clinical visual search task'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this