Capturing lightness between contours
Homogeneously coloured bars may exhibit lightness differences at the intersections. A well-known example is the Hermann grid illusion, where crossing white bars on a black background show dark patches at the crossings. Jung (1973, Handbook of Sensory Physiology volume VII/3, pp 1-152) found that the dark patches persist when thin outlines are drawn at the intersections, and are even visible in foveal vision. Recently, it has been shown that making distortions to the contours of a Hermann grid-like configuration results in the disappearance of the illusory dark spots (Geier et al, 2008 Perception 37 651-665). We show that thin outlines at the crossings of the distorted Hermann grid induce lightness differences in the same direction as in the original Hermann grid illusion, even in foveal vision and in displays consisting of two crossing bars. Our experiments reveal that the induced lightness differences are independent of the luminance polarity and shape of the contours at the intersection. We suggest that the effect results from lateral inhibition and an additional spreading and capturing of these differences between luminance contours. A similar capturing between collinear contours may play a role in peripheral vision in the original Hermann grid.