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Contrast sensitivity and appearance in briefly presented illusory figures

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

We examined the contributions of brightness enhancement, illusory figure formation and figural completion to changes in contrast sensitivity in contour gaps. The brightness on the border of a Kanizsa-square and an outline square was measured as the point of subjective equality with the background (PSE) for small line targets. Increment and decrement thresholds were measured at the same location. We found that contrast thresholds were lower than in a control condition without inducers, and that the threshold reduction was independent of the contrast polarity of the inducers. This reduction cannot be explained by a simple summation of stimulus contrast and induced brightness. In a second experiment the inducers that define the contour of the Kanizsa and the outline square were changed so that the figure was no longer closed, keeping the local stimulus surround constant. Thresholds were equally reduced for all conditions, independently of whether the figure was completed or not, or whether an illusory contour was perceived or not. The results suggest that the reduction of contrast threshold in contour gaps is independent of the brightness perceived in these gaps and of the formation of an illusory figure. Processes that cause contrast threshold reduction in contour gaps also seem to operate independently of figural completion.

Affiliations: 1: Max-Planck-Institut für Biologische Kybernetik, Spemannstrasse 38, 72076 Tübingen. Germany


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