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Vision Res. 2013 Aug 30;89:18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2013.06.009. Epub 2013 Jul 11.

Luminance and contrast in visual perception of time to collision.

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Psychologisches Institut, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Wallstraße 3, 55122 Mainz, Germany.


Many animals avoid dark, approaching objects seen against a lighter background but show no or weaker reactions to stimuli with inverted contrast. We investigated whether human observers would respond differently to such stimuli in terms of estimated time-to-arrival. We varied luminances of an approaching, light or dark disk and a plain, grey background, and for several conditions, continuously adjusted calibrations so as to keep contrast and/or overall lightness constant. Since no effects were found, we conclude that humans are able to discard luminance and contrast for the task at hand. Generally, however, performance was affected by different, consecutive regimes of feedback: Initially, without feedback, observers responded inconsistently and much too late; they improved after correct feedback, and in a third block of trials with pseudo-random feedback, they responded increasingly early without reverting to the initial level of uncertainty. We discuss our findings with regard to implications for neural mechanisms, put them in the context of evolutionary considerations, and propose continuative animal behavioral studies.


Animal behavior; Contrast; Evolution; Looming; Luminance; Time-to-collision

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