Kingdom F A A, Beauce C, Hunter L, 2004, "Colour vision brings clarity to shadows" Perception 33(8) 907 – 914
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Colour vision brings clarity to shadows
Frederick A A Kingdom, Catherine Beauce, Lyndsay Hunter
Received 11 December 2003, in revised form 27 March 2004; published online 30 June 2004
Abstract. We have revealed a new role for colour vision in visual scene analysis: colour vision facilitates shadow identification. Shadows are important features of the visual scene, providing information about the shape, depth, and movement of objects. To be useful for perception, however, shadows must be distinguished from other types of luminance variation, principally the variation in object reflectance. A potential cue for distinguishing shadows from reflectance variations is colour, since chromatic changes typically occur at object but not shadow boundaries. We tested whether colour cues were exploited by the visual system for shadow identification, by comparing the ability of human test subjects to identify simulated shadows on chromatically variegated versus achromatically variegated backgrounds with identical luminance compositions. Performance was superior with the chromatically variegated backgrounds. Furthermore, introducing random colour contrast across the shadow boundaries degraded their identification. These findings demonstrate that the visual system exploits inbuilt assumptions about the relationships between colour and luminance in the natural visual world.
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