The Chubb illusion is an optical illusion or error in visual perception in which the apparent contrast of an object varies substantially to most viewers depending on its relative contrast to the field on which it is displayed. These visual illusions are of particular interest to researchers because they may provide valuable insights in regard to the workings of human visual systems.
An object of low-contrast visual texture surrounded by a field of uniform visual texture appears to have higher contrast than when presented on a field of high-contrast texture. This illusion was observed by Charles Chubb and colleagues and published in 1989. An empirical explanation of the Chubb illusion was published by Lotto and Purves in 2001.
Chubb contrast effect
The Chubb illusion is similar to another visual illusion, the contrast effect. The contrast effect is an illusion in which the perceived brightness or luminance of an identical central visual target form on a larger uniform background varies to the test subject depending on the ratio of the central form’s luminance to that of its background. This illusion, simultaneous contrast, is illustrated in Figure 2. In it, the central target is brighter. I.e., the ratio of the top central rectangle’s luminance (A) to its background field’s luminance is greater than one. In the bottom rectangle (B), the background field is brighter. That is, the ratio is less than one. Although the two central target patches are equally bright (identical in luminance) the one on a dark background appears lighter and the one on a lighter background appears darker.