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Quantifying the watercolor effect: from stimulus properties to neural models

Abstract : Visual illusions are perceptions that violate our expectations with respect to what we understand about the physical stimulus, for example, surfaces of identical spectral composition that appear to be of different colors. Such phenomena are thought to reveal mechanisms, biases, priors or strategies that the brain uses to interpret the visual environment. In natural viewing, we perceive all surfaces within a context of surrounding light and nearby objects, and this context affects their appearance. Change in color appearance due to the surrounding light is called color induction and can be of type contrast, when appearance of a test region shifts in chromaticity away from that of the surround and assimilation when the shift is toward that of the surround. Pinna et al. (Pinna, 1987; Pinna et al., 2001) demonstrated a long-range, color assimilation phenomenon called the Watercolor Effect (WCE) that provides an interesting example for studying such processes. The WCE occurs when a wavy, dark, chromatic contour delineating a figure is flanked on the inside by a lighter chromatic contour on a bright background. The lighter color spreads into the entire enclosed area so that the interior surface is perceived as filled in with a uniform color. Previous studies reported also a weak coloration effect exterior to the contour (Cao et al., 2011; Devinck et al., 2005). The WCE is distinguished from other assimilation illusions due by to its spatial extent; the phenomenon has been reported to be observed over distances of up to 45 deg (Pinna et al., 2001). Here, we review and discuss stimulus configurations, based on different procedures, that induce the WCE and their implications for a neural model of this phenomenon.
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Frédéric Devinck, Peggy Gerardin, Michel Dojat, Kenneth Knoblauch. Quantifying the watercolor effect: from stimulus properties to neural models. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2014, 8, pp.1-9. ⟨10.3389/fnhum.2014.00805⟩. ⟨inserm-01166906⟩

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