Apparent surface curvature affects lightness perception

David C. Knill, Daniel Kersten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


The human visual system has the remarkable capacity to perceive accurately the lightness, or relative reflectance, of surfaces, even though much of the variation in image luminance may be caused by other scene attributes, such as shape and illumination. Most physiological1,2, and computational models3-6 of lightness perception invoke early sensory mechanisms that act independently of, or before, the estimation of other scene attributes. In contrast to the modularity of lightness perception assumed in these models are experiments that show that supposedly 'higher-order' percepts of planar surface attributes, such as orientation, depth and transparency7-10, can influence perceived lightness. Here we show that perceived surface curvature can also affect perceived lightness. The results of the earlier experiments indicate that perceiving luminance edges as changes in surface attributes other than reflectance can influence lightness. These results suggest that the interpretation of smooth variations in luminance can also affect lightness percepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-230
Number of pages3
Issue number6323
StatePublished - 1991

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