Pupil size is modulated by the size of equal-luminance gratings
Journal of Vision
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© 2020 The Authors. Pupil size changes with light. For this reason, researchers studying the effect of attention, contextual processing, and arousal on the pupillary response have matched the mean luminance of their stimuli across conditions to eliminate the contribution of differences in light levels. Here, we argue that the match of mean luminance is not enough. In Experiment 1, we presented a circular sinewave grating on a gray background for 2 seconds. The area of the grating could be 3°, 6°, or 9°. The mean luminance of each grating was equal to the luminance of the gray background, such that regardless of the size of the grating there was no change in mean luminance between conditions. Participants were asked to fixate the center of the grating and passively view it. We found that in all size conditions, there was a pupil constriction starting at about 300 ms after stimulus onset, and the pupil constriction increased with the size of the grating. In Experiment 2, when a small grating was presented immediately after the presentation of a large grating (or vice versa), the pupil constriction changed accordingly. In Experiment 3, we replicated Experiment 1 but had the subjects perform an attention-demanding fixation task in one session, and passively view the stimuli in the other. We found that the main effect of task was not significant. In sum, our results show that stimulus size can modulate pupil size robustly and steadily even when the luminance is matched across the different stimuli.