December 2003
Volume 3, Issue 12
OSA Fall Vision Meeting Abstract  |   December 2003
Phantom fringes 1951–2003: Exciting the imaginations of psychologists, physiologists, and model builders
Author Affiliations
  • Celeste M. Howard
    USAF Research Laboratory, USA
Journal of Vision December 2003, Vol.3, 2. doi:
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      Celeste M. Howard; Phantom fringes 1951–2003: Exciting the imaginations of psychologists, physiologists, and model builders. Journal of Vision 2003;3(12):2.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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When Ivo Kohler published his “Brillenversuche” in 1951, the colored borders on windows that he reported as an aftereffect of prism glasses were explained as “conditioned color responses.” The following decade's single-cell studies of frog and cat brains stimulated talk about “edge detectors” and led to McCollough Effect research. Explanation in terms of receptor (and post-receptor) “adaptation” was debated as color aftereffects contingent on motion, tilt, and spatial-frequency became known.

During the 1970s the ME provided a popular method of identifying what neurophysiologists might look for. Advances in computer technology enabled investigators in the 1980s to move from projectors to color monitors for presenting and measuring color aftereffects. Spatial Vision (DeValois & DeValois 1988) shifted thinking away from “feature detectors” toward the analysis of spatial patterns by a series of local filters, acting in parallel, sensitive to different orientations and spatial frequencies.

Observations reported in the 1970s received more detailed analysis in the 1990s. Broerse, Vladusich, & O'Shea (1999) drew attention to the difference between “edge color” in phantom fringes and “spread color” in the ME, something Kohler's student Anton Hajos (1969) had worried about. Webster & Malkoc (2000) resolved issues about the lack of ME with isoluminant gratings by documenting the ME's dependence on luminance contrast. Grossberg, Hwang, & Mingolla (2002) used the unexpected results of MacKay's (1978) experiments with different monocular and binocular presentations to extend the FAÇADE theory of form, depth, color, and brightness perception.

Now neural network proponents talk about “long-term synaptic modification” at LGN and cortical sites, while learning theorists supporting the original associative learning explanation concede that “visual system constraints” need consideration. The task of providing adequate psychophysical data to evaluate and guide these models will require imaginative choices and careful attention to detail.

BroerseJ.VladusichT.O'SheaR.P.(1999). Colour at edges and colour spreading in McCollough effects. Vision Research, 39, 1305–1320.

DeValoisR.L.DeValoisK.K.(1988). Spatial Vision. New York, NY: Oxford.

GrossbergS.HwangS.MingollaE.(2002). Thalamocortical dynamics of the McCollough effect: boundary-surface alignment through perceptual learning. Vision Research, 42, 1259–1286.

HajosA.(1969). Verlauf formspezifischer Farbadaptationen im visuellen System des Menschen. Psychologische Beiträge, XI(1), 95–113.

KohlerI.(1951). Über Aufbau und Wandlungen der Wahrnehmungswelt, insbesondere über bedingte Empfindungen. Üsterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sitzungsberichte, Philosophischhistorische Klasse, 227, 1–118.

MacKayValerie(1978). Associative responses to colour and pattern in the human visual system. PhD Thesis, University of Keele.

WebsterM.A.MalkocG.(2000). Color-luminance relationships and the McCollough effect. Perception & Psychophysics, 62(4), 659–672.

Howard, C. M.(2003). Phantom fringes 1951–2003: Exciting the imaginations of psychologists, physiologists, and model builders [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 3( 12): 2, 2a,, doi:10.1167/3.12.2. [CrossRef]

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