Illusory distance modulates perceived size of afterimage despite the disappearance of depth cues

Jiehui Qian, Shengxi Liu, Quan Lei

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9 Scopus citations


It is known that the perceived size of an afterimage is modulated by the perceived distance between the observer and the depth plane on which the afterimage is projected (Emmert's law). Illusions like Ponzo demonstrate that illusory distance induced by depth cues can also affect the perceived size of an object. In this study, we report that the illusory distance not only modulates the perceived size of object's afterimage during the presence of the depth cues, but the modulation persists after the disappearance of the depth cues. We used an adapted version of the classic Ponzo illusion. Illusory depth perception was induced by linear perspective cues with two tilted lines converging at the upper boundary of the display. Two horizontal bars were placed between the two lines, resulting in a percept of the upper bar to be farther away than the lower bar. Observers were instructed to make judgment about the relative size of the afterimage of the lower and the upper bars after adaptation. When the perspective cues and the bars were static, the illusory effect of the Ponzo afterimage is consistent with that of the traditional size-distance illusion. When the perspective cues were flickering and the bars were static, only the afterimage of the latter was perceived, yet still a considerable amount of the illusory effect was perceived. The results could not be explained by memory of a prejudgment of the bar length during the adaptation phase. The findings suggest that cooccurrences of depth cues and object may link a depth marker for the object, so that the perceived size of the object or its afterimage is modulated by feedback of depth information from higher-level visual cortex even when there is no depth cues directly available on the retinal level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0159228
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31500919) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (14wkpy20).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Qian et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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