Dissecting the influence of the collinear and flanking bars in White's effect

Barbara Blakeslee, Ganesh Padmanabhan, Mark E. McCourt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In White's effect equiluminant test patches placed on the black and white bars of a square-wave grating appear different in brightness. The illusion has generated intense interest because the direction of the brightness effect does not correlate with the amount of black or white border in contact with the test patch, or in its general vicinity. Therefore, unlike brightness induction effects such as simultaneous contrast, White's effect is not consistent with explanations based on contrast or assimilation that depend solely on the relative amounts of black and white surrounding the test patches. We independently manipulated the luminance of the collinear and flanking bars to investigate their influence on test patch matching luminance (brightness). The inducing grating was a 0.5 c/d square-wave and test patches measured 1.0° in width and either 0.5° or 3.0° in height. Test patches measuring 0.5° in height had more extensive contact with the collinear bars and test patches measuring 3.0° in height had more extensive contact with the flanking bars. The luminance of the collinear (or flanking) bars assumed twenty values from 3.2 to 124.8 cd/m2, while the luminance of the flanking (or collinear) bars remained white (124.8 cd/m2) or black (3.2 cd/m2). Under these conditions the influence of the collinear and flanking bars was found to be purely in the direction of contrast. The effect was dominated by contrast from the collinear bars (which results in White's effect), however, the influence of the flanking bars was also in the contrast direction. The data elucidate the luminance relationships between the collinear and flanking bars which produce the behavior associated with White's effect as well as that associated with “the inverted White effect” which is akin to simultaneous contrast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalVision research
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Assimilation mechanism
  • Contrast mechanism
  • Inverted White effect
  • Simultaneous contrast
  • White's effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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