A reversed Ebbinghaus–Titchener illusion in bantams (Gallus gallus domesticus)

Abstract

A disk surrounded by smaller disks looks larger, and one surrounded by larger disks looks smaller than reality. This visual illusion, called the Ebbinghaus–Titchener illusion, remains one of the strongest and most robust illusions induced by contrast with the surrounding stimuli in humans. In the present study, we asked whether bantams would perceive this illusion. We trained three bantams to classify six diameters of target disks surrounded by inducer disks of a constant diameter into “small” or “large”. In the test that followed, the diameters of the inducer disks were systematically changed. The results showed that the Ebbinghaus–Titchener figures also induce a strong illusion in bantams, but in the other direction, that is, bantams perceive a target disk surrounded by smaller disks to be smaller than it really is and vice versa. Possible confounding factors, such as the gap between target disk and inducer disks and the weighted sum of surface of these figural elements, could not account for the subjects’ biased responses. Taken together with the pigeon study by Nakamura et al. (J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process 34:375–387 2008), these results show that bantams as well as pigeons perceive an illusion induced by assimilation effects, not by contrast ones, for the Ebbinghaus–Titchener types of illusory figures. Perhaps perceptual processes underlying such illusory perception (i.e., lack of contrast effects) shown in bantams and pigeons may be partly shared among other avian species.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (19-7134 to N. Nakamura; 17300085 and 20220004 to K. Fujita) and the MEXT Global COE Program “Revitalizing Education for Dynamic Hearts and Minds,” D-07 to Kyoto University, Japan. We are grateful to J. R. Anderson, University of Stirling, for careful editing of an earlier version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Noriyuki Nakamura.

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Nakamura, N., Watanabe, S. & Fujita, K. A reversed Ebbinghaus–Titchener illusion in bantams (Gallus gallus domesticus). Anim Cogn 17, 471–481 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-013-0679-y

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Keywords

  • Geometric illusion
  • The Ebbinghaus–Titchener illusion
  • Animal perception
  • Bantams