Urban Experience Alters Lightness Perception

Abstract : We present the first empirical evidence that experience alters lightness perception. The role of experience in lightness perception was investigated through a cross-cultural comparison of 2 visual contrast phenomena: simultaneous lightness contrast and White's illusion. The Himba, a traditional seminomadic group known to have a local bias in perception, showed enhanced simultaneous lightness contrast but reduced White's illusion compared with groups that have a more global perceptual style: Urban-dwelling Himba and Westerners. Thus, experience of the urban environment alters lightness perception and we argue it does this by fostering the tendency to integrate information from across the visual scene. Public Significance Statement : Our perception of the lightness of a surface is often regarded to be driven not by experience, but by aspects of our visual physiology that are so fundamental as to be universal. In a cross-cultural study involving Western and non-Western participants, we found that the way in which human adults perceive lightness (measured in some classic visual effects and illusions) depends on how urbanized they are. We have shown for the first time that our experiences influence the way we perceive lightness.
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Karina Linnell, Andrew Bremner, Serge Caparos, Jules Davidoff, Jan de Fockert. Urban Experience Alters Lightness Perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, American Psychological Association, 2018, 44 (1), pp.2 - 6. ⟨10.1037/xhp0000498.supp⟩. ⟨hal-01765897⟩

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