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Text - background polarity affects performance irrespective of ambient illumination and colour contrast

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In a series of experiments, proofreading performance was consistently better with positive polarity (dark text on light background) than with negative polarity displays (light text on dark background). This positive polarity advantage was independent of ambient lighting (darkness vs. typical office illumination) and of chromaticity (black and white vs. blue and yellow). A final experiment showed that colour contrast (red text on green background) could not compensate for a lack of luminance contrast. Physiological measures of effort and strain (breathing rate, heart rate, heart rate variability and skin conductance level) and self-reported mood, fatigue, arousal, eyestrain, headache, muscle strain and back pain did not vary as a function of any of the independent variables, suggesting that participants worked equally hard in all experimental conditions, so that the interpretation of the primary performance measure was unlikely to be contaminated by a performance-effort trade-off.
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Keywords: Ambient illumination; Colour contrast; Display polarity; Luminance contrast; Reading; Visual displays

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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