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Norma V. Graham, S. Sabina Wolfson; Is the straddle effect in contrast perception limited to second-order spatial vision?. Journal of Vision 2018;18(5):15. doi: 10.1167/18.5.15.
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Previous work on the straddle effect in contrast perception (Foley, 2011; Graham & Wolfson, 2007; Wolfson & Graham, 2007, 2009) has used visual patterns and observer tasks of the type known as spatially second-order. After adaptation of about 1 s to a grid of Gabor patches all at one contrast, a second-order test pattern composed of two different test contrasts can be easy or difficult to perceive correctly. When the two test contrasts are both a bit less (or both a bit greater) than the adapt contrast, observers perform very well. However, when the two test contrasts straddle the adapt contrast (i.e., one of the test contrasts is greater than the adapt contrast and the other is less), performance drops dramatically. To explain this drop in performance—the straddle effect—we have suggested a contrast-comparison process. We began to wonder: Are second-order patterns necessary for the straddle effect? Here we show that the answer is “no”. We demonstrate the straddle effect using spatially first-order visual patterns and several different observer tasks. We also see the effect of contrast normalization using first-order visual patterns here, analogous to our prior findings with second-order visual patterns. We did find one difference between first- and second-order tasks: Performance in the first-order tasks was slightly lower. This slightly lower performance may be due to slightly greater memory load. For many visual scenes, the important quantity in human contrast processing may not be monotonic with physical contrast but may be something more like the unsigned difference between current contrast and recent average contrast.
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