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Flashing anomalous color contrast

  • BAINGIO PINNA (a1) (a2), LOTHAR SPILLMANN (a1) and JOHN S. WERNER (a1) (a3)

A new visual phenomenon that we call flashing anomalous color contrast is described. This phenomenon arises from the interaction between a gray central disk and a chromatic annulus surrounded by black radial lines. In an array of such figures, the central gray disk no longer appears gray, but assumes a color complementary to that of the surrounding annulus. The induced color appears: (1) vivid and saturated; (2) self-luminous, not a surface property; (3) flashing with eye or stimulus movement; (4) floating out of its confines; and (5) stronger in extrafoveal than in foveal vision. The strength of the effect depends on the number, length, width, and luminance contrast of the radial lines. The results suggest that the chromatic ring bounding the inner tips of the black radial lines induces simultaneous color contrast, whereas the radial lines elicit, in conjunction with the gray disk and the ring, the flashing, vividness, and high saturation of the effect. The stimulus properties inducing the illusion suggest that flashing anomalous color contrast may be based on asynchronous interactions among multiple visual pathways.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: John S. Werner, Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, Davis, 4860 Y Street, Suite 2400, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA. E-mail:
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Visual Neuroscience
  • ISSN: 0952-5238
  • EISSN: 1469-8714
  • URL: /core/journals/visual-neuroscience
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