A perceptual aftereffect can be said to occur when an inducing stimulus (typically presented for a prolonged period) affects subsequent perception of another stimulus. As described in this entry, aftereffects are a seemingly maladaptive consequence of the processes of sensory adaptation by which our sensory systems are continually matching their response properties to the prevailing environment. In the normal course of events, our perception of the world does a remarkable job of “telling us what's there,” and it is hard to appreciate just how much work our sensory systems are doing to support this feat. Aftereffects represent instances when there is a clear mismatch between our perception and our surroundings and can thus provide insight into the mechanisms underlying our perceptual experience.

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