"Colour constancy" in Mondrian patterns: a partial cancellation of physical chromaticity shifts by simultaneous contrast

Vision Res. 1990;30(3):371-80. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(90)90079-z.


Edwin Land's Mondrian demonstrations (Land 1977, 1983, 1986a) are striking examples that the perceived colours of objects are largely independent of the chromaticity of the light incident upon them. Attempts to implement this independence in artificial vision systems have renewed interest in colour constancy and contrast, and the explanation of these phenomena in the Retinex theory. We use colour matches to demonstrate that departures from "colour constancy" are large and that it is possible to obtain the same colour shifts when the complex Mondrian pattern is replaced by a homogeneous grey field surrounding a test patch. A given patch has the same colour when surrounded by the Mondrian as when set in a grey background, provided that the grey represents the spatially weighted average of the Mondrian. Neither the colour shifts nor the equivalence of this neutral surround are correctly predicted by the Retinex theory. The phenomenon of partial cancellation of physical chromaticity shifts with changes of illuminant thus reduces to one of simultaneous contrast and adaptation where a spatio-chromatic and luminance average over a Mondrian pattern is the same as for a grey surround. Experiments with simultaneous contrast demonstrate that spatial weighting factors need to be applied in computations of the effect of the separate areas of a complex Mondrian pattern.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Spectrophotometry