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Elias Economou, Suncica Zdravkovic, Alan Gilchrist; Anchoring versus spatial filtering accounts of simultaneous lightness contrast. Journal of Vision 2007;7(12):2. doi: 10.1167/7.12.2.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The oldest lightness illusion is called simultaneous contrast. A gray square placed on a black background appears lighter than an identical gray square placed on a white background. For over a hundred years, this illusion has been generally attributed to lateral inhibition or spatial filtering. Receptor cells stimulated by the gray square on the white background are strongly inhibited by nearby cells stimulated by the bright white background. Recently, a new explanation for this illusion was proposed as part of a larger theory of lightness called anchoring theory. The lightness of each target square is computed relative to the highest luminance in its local framework (consisting of only the target and its surrounding background) and relative to the highest luminance in the entire display. For each target, perceived lightness is held to depend on a weighted average of these two computations. According to this story, the contrast illusion stems mostly from the tendency of the gray square on the black background to rise toward white, its computed value in its local framework. We report six experiments in which these two theories of simultaneous contrast are pitted against each other. In each case, the results favor the anchoring model. The difficulty of deriving predictions from the spatial filtering models is discussed, along with the ease of deriving highly specific predictions from the anchoring model.
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