Characterizing the temporal limits of the human visual system has long been a central goal of vision research. Spanning three centuries of research, temporal order judgments have been used to estimate the temporal precision of visual processing, with nearly all the research focusing on onset asynchrony discriminations. Recent neurophysiological work, however, demonstrated that neural latencies for stimulus offsets are shorter and less variable than those following event onsets, suggesting that event offsets might provide more reliable timing cues to the visual system than event onsets. Here, we tested this hypothesis by measuring psychophysical thresholds for discriminating onset and offset asynchronies for both stationary and moving stimuli. In three experiments, we showed that offset asynchrony thresholds were indeed consistently lower and were less affected by stimulus variations than onset asynchrony thresholds. These findings are consistent with neurophysiology and suggest a possible role of offset signals as reliable timing references for visual events. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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