Urban Experience Alters Lightness Perception

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We present the first empirical evidence that experience alters lightness perception. The role of experience in lightness perception was investigated through a cross-cultural comparison of 2 visual contrast phenomena: simultaneous lightness contrast and White’s illusion. The Himba, a traditional seminomadic group known to have a local bias in perception, showed enhanced simultaneous lightness contrast but reduced White’s illusion compared with groups that have a more global perceptual style: Urban-dwelling Himba and Westerners. Thus, experience of the urban environment alters lightness perception and we argue it does this by fostering the tendency to integrate information from across the visual scene.

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