Serial dependence in the perceptual judgments of radiologists

Mauro Manassi* (Corresponding Author), Cristina Ghirardo, Teresa Canas-Bajo, Zhihang Ren, William Prinzmetal, David Whitney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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In radiological screening, clinicians scan myriads of radiographs with the intent of recognizing and differentiating lesions. Even though they are trained experts, radiologists' human search engines are not perfect: average daily error rates are estimated around 3-5%. A main underlying assumption in radiological screening is that visual search on a current radiograph occurs independently of previously seen radiographs. However, recent studies have shown that human perception is biased by previously seen stimuli; the bias in our visual system to misperceive current stimuli towards previous stimuli is called serial dependence. Here, we tested whether serial dependence impacts radiologists' recognition of simulated lesions embedded in actual radiographs. We found that serial dependence affected radiologists' recognition of simulated lesions; perception on an average trial was pulled 13% toward the 1-back stimulus. Simulated lesions were perceived as biased towards the those seen in the previous 1 or 2 radiographs. Similar results were found when testing lesion recognition in a group of untrained observers. Taken together, these results suggest that perceptual judgements of radiologists are affected by previous visual experience, and thus some of the diagnostic errors exhibited by radiologists may be caused by serial dependence from previously seen radiographs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive research: principles and implications
Issue number1
Early online date14 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Yuki Murai for helpful comments on data analysis.
This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship P2ELP3_158876 (M.M.) and the National Institutes of Health Grant R01


  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Radiologists
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Visual Perception


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