•Recent history induces opposite biases in perception and decision
•Negative adaptation repels perception away from previous stimuli
•Positive serial dependence attracts decisions toward previous decision
•Serial dependence of perceptual decisions may rely on biases in working memorySummary
Recent studies claim that visual perception of stimulus features, such as orientation, numerosity, and faces, is systematically biased toward visual input from the immediate past. However, the extent to which these positive biases truly reflect changes in perception rather than changes in post-perceptual processes is unclear. In the current study we sought to disentangle perceptual and decisional biases in visual perception. We found that post-perceptual decisions about orientation were indeed systematically biased toward previous stimuli and this positive bias did not strongly depend on the spatial location of previous stimuli (replicating previous work). In contrast, observers’ perception was repelled away from previous stimuli, particularly when previous stimuli were presented at the same spatial location. This repulsive effect resembles the well-known negative tilt-aftereffect in orientation perception. Moreover, we found that the magnitude of the positive decisional bias increased when a longer interval was imposed between perception and decision, suggesting a shift of working memory representations toward the recent history as a source of the decisional bias. We conclude that positive aftereffects on perceptual choice are likely introduced at a post-perceptual stage. Conversely, perception is negatively biased away from recent visual input. We speculate that these opposite effects on perception and post-perceptual decision may derive from the distinct goals of perception and decision-making processes: whereas perception may be optimized for detecting changes in the environment, decision processes may integrate over longer time periods to form stable representations.
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