Citation: Vision Research, 39, 3431-3443
Abstract: The thresholds of human observers detecting line targets improve significantly when the targets are presented in a spatial context of collinear inducing stimuli. This phenomenon is referred to as spatial facilitation, and may reflect the output of long-range interactions between cortical feature detectors. Spatial facilitation has thus far been observed with luminance-defined, achromatic stimuli on achromatic backgrounds. This study compares spatial facilitation with line targets and collinear, edge-like inducers defined by luminance contrast to spatial facilitation with targets and inducers defined by color contrast. The results of a first experiment show that achromatic inducers facilitate the detection of achromatic targets on gray and colored backgrounds, but tend to suppress the detection of chromatic targets. Chromatic inducers facilitate the detection of chromatic targets on gray and colored backgrounds, but tend to suppress the detection of achromatic targets. Chromatic spatial facilitation appears to be strongest when inducers and background are isoluminant. The results of a second experiment show that spatial facilitation with chromatic targets and inducers requires a longer exposure duration of the inducers than spatial facilitation with achromatic targets and inducers, which is already fully effective at an inducer exposure of 30 ms only. The findings point towards two separate mechanisms for spatial facilitation with collinear form stimuli: one that operates in the domain of luminance, and one that operates in the domain of color contrast. These results are consistent with neural models of boundary and surface formation which suggest that achromatic and chromatic visual cues are represented on different cortical surface representations that are capable of selectively attracting attention. Multiple copies of these achromatic and chromatic surface representations exist corresponding to different ranges of perceived depth from an observer, and each can attract attention to itself. Color and contrast differences between inducing and test stimuli, and transient responses to inducing stimuli, can cause attention to shift across these surface representations in ways that sometimes enhance and sometimes interfere with target detection.