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Dynamics of adaptation at high luminances: Adaptation is faster after luminance decrements than after luminance increments

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Abstract

As is well known, dark adaption in the human visual system is much slower than is recovery from darkness. We show that at high photopic luminances the situation is exactly opposite. First, we study detection thresholds for a small light flash, at various delays from decrement and increment steps in background luminance. Light adaptation is nearly complete within 100 ms after luminance decrements but takes much longer after luminance increments. Second, we compare sensitivity after equally visible pulses or steps in the adaptation luminance and find that flash detectability is initially the same but recovers much faster for pulses than for increment steps. This suggests that, whereas any residual threshold elevation after a step shows the incomplete luminance adaptation, the initial threshold elevation is caused by the temporal contrast of the background steps and pulses. This hypothesis is further substantiated in a third experiment, whereby we show that manipulating the contrast of a transition between luminances affects only the initial part of the threshold curve, and not later stages.

© 1997 Optical Society of America

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