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Optimizing the temporal dynamics of light to human perception


No previous research has tuned the temporal characteristics of light-emitting devices to enhance brightness perception in human vision, despite the potential for significant power savings. The role of stimulus duration on perceived contrast is unclear, due to contradiction between the models proposed by Bloch and by Broca and Sulzer over 100 years ago. We propose that the discrepancy is accounted for by the observer’s “inherent expertise bias,” a type of experimental bias in which the observer’s life-long experience with interpreting the sensory world overcomes perceptual ambiguities and biases experimental outcomes. By controlling for this and all other known biases, we show that perceived contrast peaks at durations of 50–100 ms, and we conclude that the Broca–Sulzer effect best describes human temporal vision. We also show that the plateau in perceived brightness with stimulus duration, described by Bloch’s law, is a previously uncharacterized type of temporal brightness constancy that, like classical constancy effects, serves to enhance object recognition across varied lighting conditions in natural vision—although this is a constancy effect that normalizes perception across temporal modulation conditions. A practical outcome of this study is that tuning light-emitting devices to match the temporal dynamics of the human visual system’s temporal response function will result in significant power savings.

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