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Perception of three-dimensional shape influences colour perception through mutual illumination

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marina Bloj, Professor Anya Hurlbert


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Objects in the natural world possess different visual attributes, including shape, colour, surface texture and motion. Previous perceptual studies have assumed that the brain analyses the colour of a surface independently of its three-dimensional shape and viewing geometry, although there are neural connections between colour and two-dimensional form processing early in the visual pathway. Here we show that colour perception is strongly influenced by three-dimensional shape perception in a novel, chromatic version of the Mach Card - a concave folded card with one side made of magenta paper and the other of white paper. The light reflected from the magenta paper casts a pinkish glow on the white side. The perceived colour of the white side changes from pale pink to deep magenta when the perceived shape of the card flips from concave to convex. The effect demonstrates that the human visual system incorporates knowledge of mutual illumination - the physics of light reflection between surfaces - at an early stage in colour perception.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bloj MG, Kersten D, Hurlbert AC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature

Year: 1999

Volume: 402

Issue: 6764

Pages: 877-879

Print publication date: 23/12/1999

ISSN (print): 0028-0836

ISSN (electronic): 1476-4687

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/47245

PubMed id: 10622251


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