Lightness constancy: a direct test of the illumination-estimation hypothesis

Psychol Sci. 2002 Mar;13(2):142-9. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00426.


Many models of color constancy assume that the visual system estimates the scene illuminant and uses this estimate to determine an object's color appearance. A version of this illumination-estimation hypothesis, in which the illuminant estimate is associated with the explicitly perceived illuminant, was tested. Observers made appearance matches between two experimental chambers. Observers adjusted the illumination in one chamber to match that in the other and then adjusted a test patch in one chamber to match the surface lightness of a patch in the other. The illumination-estimation hypothesis, as formulated here, predicted that after both matches the luminances of the light reflected from the test patches would be identical. The data contradict this prediction. A second experiment showed that manipulating the immediate surround of a test patch can affect perceived lightness without affecting perceived illumination. This finding also falsifies the illumination-estimation hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contrast Sensitivity*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lighting*
  • Male
  • Psychophysics