Colour Constancy in Goldfish and Man: Influence of Surround Size and Lightness

Perception. 2002;31(2):171-87. doi: 10.1068/p05sp.


Colour constancy was investigated by using a series of 10 simultaneously presented surface colours ranging in small steps from green through gray to red-purple. Goldfish were trained to select one medium test field when the entire setup was illuminated with white light. In the tests, either red or green illumination was used. Colour constancy, as inferred from the choice behaviour, was perfect under green illumination when the test fields were presented on a gray or a white background, but imperfect on a black background. Under red illumination and a white background, however, colour constancy was overcompensated. Here, a colour contrast effect was observed. The influence of background lightness was also found when the surround was restricted to a narrow annulus of 4-11 mm width (test field diameter: 14 mm). By applying colour metrics it could be shown that the von Kries coefficient law can describe the overall effect of colour constancy. For an explanation of the effect of surround size and lightness, lateral inhibitory interactions have to be assumed in addition, which are also responsible for simultaneous colour contrast. Very similar results were obtained in experiments with the same colours in human subjects. They had to name the test field appearing 'neutral' under the different illumination and surround conditions, as tested in the goldfish experiment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Female
  • Goldfish / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics