1979 volume 8(4) pages 365 – 380

Cite as:
Gregory R L, Heard P, 1979, "Border locking and the Café Wall illusion" Perception 8(4) 365 – 380

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Border locking and the Café Wall illusion

Richard L Gregory, Priscilla Heard

Received 1 August 1979

Abstract. The Café Wall illusion (seen on the tiles of a local cafe) is a Münsterberg chequerboard figure, but with horizontal parallel lines which may have any luminance separating the rows of displaced squares. These (the 'mortar' lines) display marked wedge distortion which is especially affected by: contrast of the squares ('tiles'); width of the 'mortar' lines, and their luminance which must not be significantly higher than that of the light squares or lower than that of the dark squares for distortion to occur. An experiment is described from which quantitative data have been obtained by varying these parameters. It is suggested that contiguous regions of different luminance (and contiguous colour regions) are normally held in spatial register by locking from common luminance boundaries. The Café Wall illusion is attributed to this border locking producing inappropriate contour shifts from neighbouring regions of contrasting luminance when separated by narrow gaps of neutral luminance. Further implications on the border-locking notion are discussed.

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