In early 2015, a public debate about a perceptual phenomenon that impressively demonstrated the subjective nature of human perception was running round the globe: the debate about #TheDress, a poorly lit photograph of a lace dress that was perceived as white–gold by some, but as blue–black by others. In the present research (N¼48), we found that the perceptual difference between white–gold perceivers (n1¼24, 12 women, Mage¼25.4 years) and blue–black perceivers (n2¼24, 12 women, Mage¼24.3 years) decreased significantly when the illumination information provided by the original digital photo was reduced by means of image scrambling (Experiment 1). This indicates that the illumination information is one potentially important factor contributing to the color ambiguity of #TheDress—possibly by amplification of a slight principal difference in psychophysics of color perception which the two observer groups showed for abstract uniformly colored fields displaying a white–blue ambiguity (Experiment 2).
The folded paper-size illusion is as easy to demonstrate as it is powerful in generating insights into perceptual processing: First take two A4 sheets of paper, one original sized, another halved by folding, then compare them in terms of area size by centering the halved sheet on the center of the original one! We perceive the larger sheet as far less than double (i.e., 100%) the size of the small one, typically only being about two thirds larger—this illusion is preserved by rotating the inner sheet and even by aligning it to one or two sides, but is dissolved by aligning both sheets to three sides, here documented by 88 participants’ data. A potential explanation might be the general incapability of accurately comparing more than one geometrical dimension at once—in everyday life, we solve this perceptual-cognitive bottleneck by reducing the complexity of such a task via aligning parts with same lengths.
Perceptual adaptation destabilizes the phenomenal appearance of multistable visual displays. Prolonged dominance of a perceptual state fatigues the associated neural population, lowering the likelihood of renewed perception of the same appearance (Nawrot & Blake in Perception & Psychophysics, 49, 230-44, 1991). Here, we used a selective adaptation paradigm to investigate perceptual adaptation for the illusory rotation of ambiguous structure-from-motion (SFM) displays. Specifically, we generated SFM objects with different three-dimensional shapes and presented them in random order, separating successive objects by brief blank periods, which included a mask. To assess the specificity of perceptual adaptation to the shape of SFM objects, we established the probability that a perceived direction of rotation persisted between successive objects of similar or dissimilar shape. We found that the strength of negative aftereffects depended on the volume, but not the shape, of adaptor and probe objects. More voluminous objects were both more effective as adaptor objects and more sensitive as probe objects. Surprisingly, we found these volume effects to be completely independent, since any relationship between two shapes (such as overlap between volumes, similarity of shape, or similarity of velocity profiles) failed to modulate the negative aftereffect. This pattern of results was the opposite of that observed for sensory memory of SFM objects, which reflects similarity between objects, but not volume of individual objects (Pastukhov et al. in Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 75, 1215-1229, 2013). The disparate specificities of perceptual adaptation and sensory memory for identical SFM objects suggest that the two aftereffects engage distinct neural representations, consistent with recent brain imaging results (Schwiedrzik et al. in Cerebral Cortex, 2012).