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Evidence for a role of action in colour perception

Action is not usually considered to play a role in colour perception. However, sensorimotor theories of perception (eg O'Regan and Noe, 2001 Behavior and Brain Science 24 939-1011) suggest that, on the contrary, the transformations created by action in the sensory input are a necessary condition for all perception. In the case of colour vision, eye movements may explain how a retina with significant irregularities in resolution and cone arrangement (Roorda and Williams, 1999 Nature 397 520-522) could permit the perception of a richly coloured world (Clark and O'Regan, 2000 15th International Conference on Pattern Recognition volume 2: Pattern Recognition and Neural Networks pp 503-506; Skaff et al, 2002 16th International Conference on Pattern Recognition volume 2, pp 681-684). We provide evidence that perception of colour is modified when an artificial coupling is introduced linking eye movements and colour changes. After 40 min of wearing left-field-blue/right-field-yellow spectacles, observers' colour vision adapts so that, after removing the spectacles, white patches seem to become bluer when the eyes move rightwards and yellower when the eyes move leftwards. This induced dependence of colour perception on the direction of eye saccade is shown to be related to the amount of eye movements during exposure. This result, which cannot be explained either by retinal adaptation, or by a conditioned association between colour and side, constitutes first clear evidence for a role of eye movements in perceived colour and argues for the involvement in colour perception of neural mechanisms continuously tuned to sensorimotor contingencies.



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