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Celeste McCollough, known since about 1996 as Celeste McCollough Howard is an American psychologist who conducts research in human visual perception. She is famous for discovering, in 1965, the first contingent aftereffect, known soon after as the McCollough effect. To induce the McCollough effect, a person alternately views two gratings of different orientations (e.g., vertical and horizontal) that are also differently coloured (e.g, orange and blue respectively) for a few minutes. The effect is that black and white versions of the gratings appear to be tinted by complementary colours (i.e., blue and orange respectively). Apart from the colours' being contingent on the orientation of the gratings (distinguishing them from afterimages), they are also extremely long-lasting. About 10 minutes of induction can lead to the effect persisting for 24 hours (e.g., Jones & Holding, 1975).

The biography that follows is largely based on Howard (2000, December).

Early yearsEdit

Celeste McCollough published her first paper from work she undertook at Olivet College, Michigan (McCollough, 1955). At about the same time, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Oberlin College. In 1962-63 she took her first sabbatical leave]], conducting research into the perceptual effects of wearing spectacles tinted with two colours (McCollough, 1965b). This led to her discovering the effect that bears her name (McCollough, 1965a). Her paper sparked hundreds of other scientific papers.

Time outEdit

In about 1972, Celeste McCollough was married. She retired from academia, devoting her life to raising her two children.

Return to researchEdit

In 1986, Celeste McCollough returned to vision research, under contract to University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI). She worked on the role of colour in flight simulation displays for the Air Force Human Resources Lab at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona (e.g., McCollough-Howard, 1996). Her work on the dim light available from these displays led to her contributing to the Commission International de l'Eclairage (CIE) on mesopic photometry.

Since 1995, she worked on UDRI's Night Vision Training Research Program, but now funded by private corporations. This research included work on night vision goggles (e.g., Howard, Tregear, & Werner, 2000). She also wrote a review of the McCollough effect (McCollough, 2000).

In November 2003, McCollough retired from the Night Vision Training Research Program and moved to Portland Oregon to be near her children and grandchildren.


Howard, C. M. (2000, December). A vision for psychological science. American Psychological Society Observer, 13(10). Retrieved May 19, 2006, from

Howard, C. M., Tregear, S. J., Werner, J. S. (2000). Time course of early mesopic adaptation to luminance decrements and recovery of spatial resolution. Vision Research, 40, 3059-3064.

Jones, P. D., & Holding, D. H. (1975). Extremely long-term persistence of the McCollough effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 1, 323-327.

McCollough, C. (1955) The variation in width and position of Mach bands as a function of luminance. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 49, 141-152.

McCollough, C. (1965a). Color adaptation of edge-detectors in the human visual system. Science, 149, 1115-1116.

McCollough, C. (1965b). Conditioning of color perception. American Journal of Psychology, 78, 362-378.

McCollough C. (2000). Do McCollough effects provide evidence for global pattern processing? Perception & Psychophysics, 62, 350-362.

McCollough-Howard, C. (1996). Color appearance in self-luminous displays (A346713). Pentagon Reports.

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