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Perception. 2003;32(3):269-84.

Perceptual organization and White's illusion.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NE-20 447, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The apparent lightness of a surface can be strongly modulated by the spatial context in which it is embedded. Early theories of such context dependence emphasized the role of low-level mechanisms that sense border contrast, whereas a number of recent authors have emphasized the role of perceptual organization in determining perceived lightness. One of the simplest and most theoretically challenging lightness illusions was described by White. This illusion has been explained with a variety of different models, ranging from low-level filter outputs to computations underlying the extraction of mid-level representations of surfaces. Here, I present a new method for determining the organizational forces that shape this illusion. I show that the spatial context of White's pattern not only transforms the apparent lightness of homogeneous target patches. but can also induce dramatic inversions of figure-ground relationships of textured target regions. These phenomena provide new evidence for the role of scission in causing the lightness illusion experienced in White's effect.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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