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Talia L. Retter, O. Scott Gwinn, Sean F. O'Neil, Fang Jiang, Michael A. Webster; Neural correlates of perceptual color inferences as revealed by #thedress. Journal of Vision 2020;20(3):7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.3.7.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Color constancy involves disambiguating the spectral characteristics of lights and surfaces, for example to distinguish red in white light from white in red light. Solving this problem appears especially challenging for bluish tints, which may be attributed more often to shading, and this bias may underlie the individual differences in whether people described the widely publicized image of #thedress as blue-black or white-gold. To probe these higher-level color inferences, we examined neural correlates of the blue-bias, using frequency-tagging and high-density electroencephalography to monitor responses to 3-Hz alternations between different color versions of #thedress. Specifically, we compared relative neural responses to the original “blue” dress image alternated with the complementary “yellow” image (formed by inverting the chromatic contrast of each pixel). This image pair produced a large modulation of the electroencephalography amplitude at the alternation frequency, consistent with a perceived contrast difference between the blue and yellow images. Furthermore, decoding topographical differences in the blue-yellow asymmetries over occipitoparietal channels predicted blue-black and white-gold observers with over 80% accuracy. The blue-yellow asymmetry was stronger than for a “red” versus “green” pair matched for the same component differences in L versus M or S versus LM chromatic contrast as the blue-yellow pair and thus cannot be accounted for by asymmetries within either precortical cardinal mechanism. Instead, the results may point to neural correlates of a higher-level perceptual representation of surface colors.
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