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Brendan L. Portengen, Giorgio L. Porro, Saskia M. Imhof, Marnix Naber; The Trade-Off Between Luminance and Color Contrast Assessed With Pupil Responses. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2023;12(1):15. https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.12.1.15.
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A scene consisting of a white stimulus on a black background incorporates strong luminance contrast. When both stimulus and background receive different colors, luminance contrast decreases but color contrast increases. Here, we sought to characterize the pattern of stimulus salience across varying trade-offs of color and luminance contrasts by using the pupil light response.
Three experiments were conducted with 17, 16, and 17 healthy adults. For all experiments, a flickering stimulus (2 Hz; alternating color to black) was presented superimposed on a background with a complementary color to the stimulus (i.e., opponency colors in human color perception: blue and yellow for Experiment 1, red and green for Experiment 2, and equiluminant red and green for Experiment 3). Background luminance varied between 0% and 45% to trade off luminance and color contrast with the stimulus. By comparing the locus of the optimal trade-off between color and luminance across different color axes, we explored the generality of the trade-off.
The strongest pupil responses were found when a substantial amount of color contrast was present (at the expense of luminance contrast). Pupil response amplitudes increased by 15% to 30% after the addition of color contrast. An optimal pupillary responsiveness was reached at a background luminance setting of 20% to 35% color contrast across several color axes.
These findings suggest that a substantial component of pupil light responses incorporates color processing. More sensitive pupil responses and more salient stimulus designs can be achieved by adding subtle levels of color contrast between stimulus and background.
More robust pupil responses will enhance tests of the visual field with pupil perimetry.
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