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Inhibition or facilitation of return: Does chromatic component count?



Inhibitory effects have been reported when a target is preceded by a cue of the same color and location. Color-based inhibition was found using red and blue nonisoluminant stimuli (Law et al., 1995). Here we investigate whether this phenomenon depends on the chromatic subsystem involved by employing isoluminant colors varying along either the violet-yellow or purple-turquoise cardinal axis. Experiment 1 replicated Law et al.'s study: After fixating magenta, either a red or blue cue was presented, followed by a magenta “neutral attractor,” and, finally, by a red or blue target. In Experiment 2, violet and yellow, cue or target, varied along a tritan confusion line in the CIE 1976 chromaticity diagram. In Experiment 3, purple and turquoise, cue or target, varied along a deutan confusion line in the CIE 1976 chromaticity diagram. Normal trichromats (n = 19) participated in all three experiments. In Experiment 1, color repetition indeed resulted in longer reaction times (RTs) (4.7 ms, P = 0.038). In Experiment 2, however, no significant color repetition effect was found; RTs to violet and yellow were not significantly different, though tending toward slower responses (2 ms) for violet repetition but faster (5 ms) for yellow. Experiment 3 also showed no color repetition effect (P = 0.58); notably, RTs were overall faster for purple than for turquoise (22 ms, P < 0.0001). Furthermore, responses tended to be slower for purple repetition (4 ms, P > 0.05), but faster for turquoise (7 ms, P > 0.05). These findings demonstrate that color repetition is not always inhibitory but may turn facilitatory depending on the colors employed. The results indicate that disengagement of attention is an unlikely mechanism to be the sole explanation of previously reported color-based inhibition of return. We suggest a complementary, perceptual explanation: response (dis)advantage depends on whether the stimuli are isoluminant and on the opponent chromatic subsystem involved. The choice of the colors employed and the cue-attractor-target constellation also may be of significance.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Luiz Henrique M. do Canto-Pereira, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Av. Prof. Lineu Prestes, 1524, 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil. E-mail:


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