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Vision Res. 1994 Aug;34(15):1993-2020.

The influence of contrast adaptation on color appearance.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, England.


Most models of color vision assume that signals from the three classes of cone receptor are recoded into only three independent post-receptoral channels: one that encodes luminance and two that encode color. Stimuli that are equated for their effects on two of the channels should be discriminable only to the remaining channel, and are thus assumed to isolate the responses of single channels. We used an asymmetric matching task to examine whether such models can account for changes in color appearance following adaptation to contrast--to temporal variations in luminance and chromaticity around a fixed mean luminance and chromaticity. The experiments extend to suprathreshold color appearance the threshold adaptation paradigm of Krauskopf, Williams and Heeley [(1982) Vision Research, 32, 1123-1131]. Adaptation changes the perceived color of chromatic test stimuli both by reducing their saturation (contrast) and by changing their hue (direction within the equiluminant plane). The saturation losses are largest for test stimuli that lie along the chromatic axis defining the adapting modulation, while the hue changes are rotations away from the adapting direction and toward an orthogonal direction within the S and L-M plane. Similar selective changes in both perceived color and perceived lightness occur following adaptation to stimuli that covary in luminance and chromaticity. The selectivity of the aftereffects for multiple directions within color-luminance space is inconsistent with sensitivity changes in only three independent channels. These aftereffects suggest instead that color appearance depends on channels that can be selectively tuned to any color-luminance direction, and that there are no directions that invariably isolate responses in only a single channel. We use the perceived color changes to examine the spectral sensitivities of the chromatic channels and to estimate the distribution of channels. We also examine how adaptation alters the contrast-response function, how it affects reaction times for luminance and chromatic contrast, the extent to which the aftereffects exhibit interocular transfer, and the way in which the perceived color changes differ from those induced by conventional light adaptation.

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