RF-LISSOM, a self-organizing model of laterally connected orientation maps in the primary visual cortex, was used to study the psychological phenomenon known as the tilt aftereffect. The same self-organizing processes that are responsible for the long-term development of the map are shown to result in tilt aftereffects over short timescales in the adult. The model permits simultaneous observation of large numbers of neurons and connections, making it possible to relate high-level phenomena to low-level events, which is difficult to do experimentally. The results give detailed computational support for the long-standing conjecture that the direct tilt aftereffect arises from adaptive lateral interactions between feature detectors. They also make a new prediction that the indirect effect results from the normalization of synaptic efficacies during this process. The model thus provides a unified computational explanation of self-organization and both the direct and indirect tilt aftereffect in the primary visual cortex.