Cone contrast computations: Physical versus perceived background and colour constancy

A. Daugirdiene, I. J. Murray, H. Vaitkevicius, J. Kulikowski

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    The light reflected from an object depends both on the object's surface and on the illuminant. Visual systems attempt to resolve this intrinsic ambiguity by comparing the light reflected from the object with respect to the background by computing the difference between the object-background light sampled by three cones. The cone-contrasts for the sample-background stimulus under the test illumination should correspond to the cone-contrasts for samples matched in appearance under the standard background (C). The validity of this cone-contrast rule (Whittle, 2003) and its possible link with stability of perceived colour was studied here using six test illuminants. A successive asymmetric colour-matching task with 40 simulated Munsell samples (value 7, chroma 4) on a neutral background (N7) was used. The subject adjusted the sample under standard illuminant C to match the colour appearance of the test sample under one of the test illuminants. Brunswik Ratio (BR) was used as an index of stability of colour appearance. When computed with respect to the reference illuminant C, the cone contrast rule was violated (particularly for S-cone-contrast). However, if a new reference point based on the perceived colour of the neutral background under the test illumination was used, the cone contrast rule applied. That is, when cone contrasts of the matching samples are computed with respect to this perceived background, they correspond to cone contrasts of the test stimuli. This represents a form of discounting the illuminant for the purpose of determining an object's cone-contrast against the background, which does not vary with background illumination. These cone contrasts, however, do not provide any information about the colour appearance of objects under particular viewing conditions, unless calibrated against a standard by allowing subjects to learn particular colours. © VSP 2006.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)173-192
    Number of pages19
    JournalSpatial vision
    Issue number2-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • Colour appearance
    • Colour constancy
    • Colour matching
    • Cone contrast


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