March 7, 2021

The Brain Knows enough to take into account Light and Shadow

Visual perception requires to infer object and light source color to maintain constancy. This study demonstrates the influences of environmental sunlight color trajectory (blue-white-yellow-red), and associated color of scattered light in shadows on color perception. In Adelson’s checkerboard shadow illusion, squares of equal luminance appear lighter or darker depending on whether they are inside or outside a cast shadow. In some color variations, illusion magnitude is attenuated by specific colors of the cast shadow. Particularly in the green monotone environment (green checkerboard under green ambient and diffusion light), illusion magnitude reduces down nearly to zero. In contrast, shading by structure is not affected by the color environment. Thus, the cast shadow and shading by structure have distinct effects on surface color constancy. This illusion attenuation may be related to the absence of green in the natural environmental light spectrum, including in cast shadows. The brain may utilize the implicit learned trajectory of natural light to resolve ambiguity in surface reflectance. Our results provide a new formula not only to understand, but also to generate new variations of other illusions such as #The Dress.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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