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S-cone psychophysics



We review the features of the S-cone system that appeal to the psychophysicist and summarize the celebrated characteristics of S-cone mediated vision. Two factors are emphasized: First, the fine stimulus control that is required to isolate putative visual mechanisms and second, the relationship between physiological data and psychophysical approaches. We review convergent findings from physiology and psychophysics with respect to asymmetries in the retinal wiring of S-ON and S-OFF visual pathways, and the associated treatment of increments and decrements in the S-cone system. Beyond the retina, we consider the lack of S-cone projections to superior colliculus and the use of S-cone stimuli in experimental psychology, for example to address questions about the mechanisms of visually driven attention. Careful selection of stimulus parameters enables psychophysicists to produce entirely reversible, temporary, “lesions,” and to assess behavior in the absence of specific neural subsystems.


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Address correspondence to: Hannah E. Smithson, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. E-mail:


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