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The role of the Gestalt principle of similarity in the watercolor illusion

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

The watercolor illusion presents two main effects: a long-range assimilative color spreading (coloration effect), and properties imparting a strong figure status (figural effect) to a region delimited by a dark (e.g. purple) contour flanked by a lighter chromatic contour (e.g. orange). In four experiments, the strength of the watercolor illusion to determine figure-ground organization is directly compared (combined or pitted against) with the Gestalt principle of similarity both of color and line width. The results demonstrated that (i) the watercolor illusion and, particularly, its figural effect won over the classical Gestalt factors of similarity; (ii) the watercolor illusion cannot be due to the coloration effect as suggested by the similarity principle; (iii) coloration and figural effects may be independent in the watercolor illusion, and (iv) the watercolor illusion can be considered as a principle of figure-ground segregation on its own. Two parallel and independent processes as proposed within the FACADE model (Grossberg, 1994, 1997) are suggested to account for the two effects of coloration and figural enhancement in the watercolor illusion.


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