Thursday, July 24, 2014

We can’t believe all that we see

Without a boundary, it's hard to distinguish different shades of gray. Sometimes we can't believe all that we see. Two slightly different shades of the same color may look different if there is a sharp boundary between them. But if the boundary is obscured, the two shades may be indistinguishable.
To try this experiment we can use the image provided below. Attach the white thread tail above the boundary between the two pieces, so that it hangs down and covers the boundary.
The tail like thread is used to obscure the boundary between two gray areas. We see one uniform gray area when the tail is in place, and two different gray areas when the tail is removed. But I have never seen the truth before the experiment. The truth in both gray areas is they are really identical in grades from light gray at one edge to dark gray at the other. In general, our brain ignores slight gradations in gray shades.
If we try this activity with our friends, most of them will see a uniformly gray piece of paper with a rope hanging down the middle.
What is going on?
Actually, the two rectangles are exactly the same. At the right edge both rectangles are light gray. Both become darker toward the left. Where the rectangles meet, the dark part of one rectangle contrasts sharply with the light part of the other, so you see a distinct edge. When the edge is covered, however, the two regions look the same uniform shade of gray.
It is difficult to distinguish between different shades of gray or shades of the same color if there is no sharp edge between them. If there is an edge between the two shades, the difference is obvious.
Your eye-brain system, however, condenses the information it obtains from more than a hundred million light-detecting rods and cones in the retina in order to send the information over a million neurons to your brain. Your eye-brain system enhances the ratio of reflected light at edges. If one region of the retina is stimulated by light, lateral connections turn down the sensitivity of adjacent regions. This is called lateral inhibition. Conversely, if one region is in the dark, the sensitivity of adjacent regions is increased. This means that a dark region next to a light region looks even darker, and vice versa. As a result, your visual system is most sensitive to changes in brightness and color.
When the thread tail is absent and the normal boundary is visible, lateral inhibition enhances the contrast between the two shades of gray. The bright side appears brighter and the dark side darker. When the tail is in place, the boundary between the two different grays is spread apart across the retina so that it no longer falls on adjacent regions. Lateral inhibition then does not help us distinguish between the different shades, and the eye-brain system judges them to be the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment