Grieco A, Roncato S, 2005, "Lines that induce phenomenal transparency" Perception 34(4) 391 – 407
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Lines that induce phenomenal transparency
Alba Grieco, Sergio Roncato
Received 8 September 2003, in revised form 9 December 2004; published online 22 April 2005
Abstract. Three neighbouring opaque surfaces may appear split into two layers, one transparent and one opaque beneath, if an outline contour is drawn that encompasses two of them. The phenomenon was originally observed by Kanizsa [1955 Rivista di Psicologia 69 3 - 19; Organization in Vision: Essays on Gestalt Psychology (New York: Praeger)], for the case where an outline contour is drawn to encompass one of the two parts of a bicoloured figure and a portion of a background of lightest (or darkest) luminance. Preliminary observations revealed that the outline contour yields different effects: in addition to the stratification into layers described by Kanizsa, a second split, opposite in depth order, may occur when the outline contour is close in luminance to one of the three surfaces. An initial experiment was designed to investigate what conditions give rise to the two phenomenal transparencies: this led to the conclusion that an outline contour superimposed on an opaque surface causes this surface to emerge as a transparent layer when the luminances of the contour and the surface differ, in absolute value, by no more than 13.2 cd m-2. We have named this phenomenon 'transparency of the intercepted surface', to distinguish it from the phenomenal transparency arising when the contour and surface are very different in luminance. When such a difference exists, the contour acts as a factor of surface definition and grouping: the portion of the homogeneous surface it bounds emerges as a fourth surface and groups with a nearby surface if there is one close in luminance. The transparency phenomena ('transparency of the contoured surface') perceived in this context conform to the constraints of Metelli's model, as demonstrated by a second experiment, designed to gather 'opacity' ratings of stimuli. The observer judgments conformed to the values predicted by Metelli's formula for perceived degree of transparency, α. The role of the outline contour in conveying figural and intensity information is discussed.
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