The neon color effect in the Ehrenstein illusion

Perception. 1982;10(6):667-81. doi: 10.1068/p100667.


Van Tuijl's neon color effect arises in the Ehrenstein figure if a colored cross is added such as to connect the black arms across the central gap. The effect consists of a circular veil of color in the illusory area and has the same hue as the inducing cross. The neon-like coloration is uniform, or when elicited by two color bipartite; it is strongest on backgrounds resembling the color of the cross. The effect cannot be attributed to chromatic aberration or eye movements. In foveal vision (and for red crosses) neon spreading is limited to gap sizes between 4 and 35 min of arc. Extrafoveally, gap sizes may be larger by a factor of two. Neon perception is enhanced by flicker and weakened if stimuli are oriented obliquely. It does not occur with dichoptic presentation. A maximum illusion requires that the Ehrenstein figure and cross are laterally and angularly aligned for good perceptual continuation. A neuronal origin by spreading and summation, together with cognitive processes, is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afterimage
  • Color Perception*
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Lighting
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Optical Illusions*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Visual Fields