Bright illusions reduce the eye's pupil.

Abstract

We recorded by use of an infrared eye-tracker the pupil diameters of participants while they observed visual illusions of lightness or brightness. Four original illusions {based on Gaetano Kanisza's [Kanizsa G (1976) Subjective contours. Sci Am 234:48-52] and Akiyoshi Kitaoka's [Kitaoka A. (2005) Trick Eyes (Barnes & Noble, New Providence, NJ).] examples} were manipulated to obtain control conditions in which the perceived illusory luminance was either eliminated or reduced. All stimuli were equiluminant so that constrictions in pupillary size could not be ascribed to changes in light energy. We found that the pupillary diameter rapidly varied according to perceived brightness and lightness strength. Differences in local contrast information could be ruled out as an explanation because, in a second experiment, the observers maintained eye fixation in the center of the display; thus, differential stimulation of the fovea by local contrast changes could not be responsible for the pupillary differences. Hence, the most parsimonious explanation for the present findings is that pupillary responses to ambient light reflect the perceived brightness or lightness of the scene and not simply the amount of physical light energy entering the eye. Thus, the pupillary physiological response reflects the subjective perception of light and supports the idea that the brain's visual circuitry is shaped by visual experience with images and their possible sources.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118298109
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@article{Laeng2012BrightIR, title={Bright illusions reduce the eye's pupil.}, author={Bruno Laeng and Tor Endestad}, journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America}, year={2012}, volume={109 6}, pages={2162-7} }