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Jasna Martinovic, Ben J. Jennings, Alexis D. J. Makin, Marco Bertamini, Ilinca Angelescu; Symmetry perception for patterns defined by color and luminance. Journal of Vision 2018;18(8):4. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.8.4.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Perception of visual symmetry is fast and efficient and relies on both early low-level and late mid- and high-level neural mechanisms. To test for potential influences of early low-level mechanisms on symmetry perception, we used isoluminant, achromatic, and combined (color + luminance) patterns in a psychophysical and an event-related-potential (ERP) experiment. In the psychophysical experiment, pattern contrast was fixed at individual symmetry-discrimination threshold. Participants then judged whether a pattern was symmetric or random. Stimuli at isoluminance were associated with a large bias toward symmetry, achromatic stimuli introduced the opposite bias, and stimuli containing a balance of both color and luminance were perceived without bias. These findings are in line with distinct contrast sensitivity functions for color and luminance, with color providing low-frequency information useful for symmetry detection and luminance providing high-frequency information useful for detection of detail. The subsequent ERP experiment was run at high contrasts to assess processing of symmetry in suprathreshold conditions. Sustained posterior negativity, a symmetry-sensitive ERP component, was observed in all conditions and showed the expected dependence on symmetry. However, interactions between symmetry and contrast type were not observed. In conclusion, while our findings at threshold support models that propose an important contribution of low-level mechanisms to symmetry perception, at suprathreshold these low-level contributions do not persist. Therefore, under everyday viewing conditions, symmetry perception engages a relatively broad cortical network that is not constrained by low-level inputs.
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