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Grouping ambiguous neural representations: neither identical chromaticity (the stimulus) nor color (the percept) is necessary

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Abstract

Multiple regions, each with the same ambiguous chromatic neural representation, are resolved to have the identical perceived color more often than chance [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 15508 (1996) [CrossRef]  ; J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 35, B85 (2018) [CrossRef]  ]. This reveals that the regions are grouped, but it is unclear whether they are grouped because each one has the identical competing representations of the same stimuli (that is, the same chromaticities) or, alternatively, identical competing representations of the same colors one sees. The current study uses chromatic induction, as in Nat. Neurosci. 6, 801 (2003) [CrossRef]  , to disentangle whether grouping depends on identical (though ambiguous) stimulus chromaticities or on perceived colors, by (1) inducing one chromaticity to appear in two different colors or (2) inducing two different chromaticities to appear in the same color. All stimuli were equiluminant gratings with chromatic inducing and test fields. Three observers were tested, first completing color matches to measure induced color-appearance shifts and second completing grouping measurements using interocular-switch rivalry, a method with rivalrous dichoptic images swapped between the eyes at 3.75 Hz [J. Vis. 17, 9 (2017) [CrossRef]  ]. Each of two separate areas, one above and one below fixation, had dichoptic rivalry. The two sets of regions had either identical or different chromaticities that could appear either as the same color or not. Observers reported their percepts when both areas above and below fixation were grouped by color or by chromaticity (or neither in an additional experimental condition). All conditions showed significant groupings for every observer, including when neither color nor chromaticity was identical in a “group.” Moreover, there was never a significant effect of chromaticity versus color for any observer. This is the result expected if neither color nor chromaticity must match between two regions in order for them to be grouped and suggests that, instead, some other feature drives grouping.

© 2020 Optical Society of America

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