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Iperception. 2010;1(2):95-102. doi: 10.1068/i0395. Epub 2010 Nov 5.

The reduction of the effect of the Müller-Lyer illusion saccade amplitude by classic adaptation.

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Directorate of Orthoptics and Vision Science, University of Liverpool, Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L69 3GB, UK; e-mail:


The effect of Müller-Lyer stimuli on saccade amplitude varies across studies. One methodological difference between studies is stimulus display time; studies with long stimulus display times tend to report smaller effects than studies with short display times. Is it possible that long display times might provide conditions in which saccade adaption takes place? Five adult subjects were exposed to runs of the same illusion-inducing Müller-Lyer stimulus, presented for 1 s, interspersed with probe trials in which a point target was presented for 200 ms. While saccade amplitude was consistently larger with 'in-configurations' than with 'out-configurations' at the beginning of runs, amplitude declined over runs with the in-configuration. On average, it was constant in out-configuration runs. The net effect was a decline in the apparent effect size (in-amp - out-amp / out-amp) of the Müller-Lyer stimulus. Probe trial saccade amplitude increased in 'out' runs and decreased in 'in' runs. These effects were not present in control experiments, in which stimulus display time was 200 ms. One explanation for this pattern of results is that long stimulus presentation times allow for the generation of retinal error signals. This in turn leads to saccade adaptation, causing an underestimation of the effect of this type of stimulus on saccade amplitude.


Müller-Lyer illusion; adaptation; saccades

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