In simultaneous brightness contrast (SBC) demonstrations, identical mid-luminance disks appear different from each other when one is placed on a black background while the other is placed on a white background. The strength of SBC effects can be enhanced by placing a semi-transparent layer on top of the display (Meyer’s effect). Here, we try to separate the causes of Meyer’s effect by placing a spatially homogenous transparent layer over a standard SBC display, and systematically varying the transmission level (, clear; , opaque) and color (black, gray, white) of the semi-transparent layer. Spatially homogenous transparent layers, which lack spatial cues, cannot be unambiguously interpreted as transparent fields. We measure SBC strength with both matching and ranking procedures. Paradoxically, with black layers, increasing alpha level weakens SBC when measured with a ranking procedure (no Meyer’s effect) and strengthens SBC when measured with a matching procedure (Meyer’s effect). With white and gray layers, neither procedure produces Meyer’s effect. We account for the differences between white and black layers by positing that the visual system separates luminance from contrast. The results suggest that observers attend to different information in the matching and ranking procedures.
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