Resolution Put to the Test

Institute Fellow Emily Slezak and Institute Member Steve Shevell, Ph.D. explore perceptual resolution of color


Slezak, E., & Shevell, S.K. (2018). Perceptual resolution of color for multiple chromatically ambiguous objects. Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 35(4), B85-B91. doi: 10.1364/JOSAA.35.000B85. PubMed PMID: 29603929. PMCID: PMC6022830.


In a classic study, Kovács et al. [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 15508 (1996) used an array of many disks presented dichoptically with half of the disks in one eye “red” and the other half “green;” disk chromaticities in the fellow eye were reversed, resulting in binocular color rivalry for every disk, thus creating color ambiguity. Surprisingly, the binocularly fused percept sometimes was all disks of the same color (red or green), which showed that perceptual resolution of the many ambiguous neural representations did not rely completely on monocular dominance or on independent resolution for each disk. The present study replicates and expands on the original with the aim to isolate binocularly driven neural mechanisms of perceptual resolution without contamination from monocular dominance. Observers viewed a color-rivalrous array with 16 disks presented either steadily to each eye, as in Kovács et al., or with chromatic interocular-switch rivalry (CISR), which swaps the two images between the eyes every 133 ms. The total proportion of viewing time when the 16 disks were perceived to be all red or all green was measured. For three observers, the disks all appeared the same color more often with CISR than with steady rivalrous presentation, suggesting that monocular dominance interferes with grouped perceptual resolution of ambiguous stimuli in the Kovács paradigm. This conclusion was supported by an additional condition using CISR, but with every disk the same color in one eye at each instant (e.g., all “red” disks in one eye and all “green” in the other). This condition was never significantly different from the original CISR condition, as expected if CISR reveals only binocularly mediated perceptual resolution of the disks’ color, irrespective of monocular neural representations. In conclusion, chromatically tuned binocularly driven neurons account for perceptual resolution of CISR.