Invariant recognition of natural objects in the presence of shadows

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38 Scopus citations


Shadows are frequently present when we recognize natural objects, but it is unclear whether they help or hinder recognition. Shadows could improve recognition by providing information about illumination and 3-D surface shape, or impair recognition by introducing spurious contours that are confused with object boundaries. In three experiments, we explored the effect of shadows on recognition of natural objects. The stimuli were digitized photographs of fruits and vegetables displayed with or without shadows. In experiment 1, we evaluated the effects of shadows, color, and image resolution on naming latency and accuracy. Performance was not affected by the presence of shadows, even for gray-scale, blurry images, where shadows are difficult to identify. In experiment 2, we explored recognition of two-tone images of the same objects. In these images, shadow edges are difficult to distinguish from object and surface edges because all edges are defined by a luminance boundary. Shadows impaired performance, but only in the early trials. In experiment 3, we examined whether shadows have a stronger impact when exposure time is limited, allowing little time for processing shadows; no effect of shadows was found. These studies show that recognition of natural objects is highly invariant to the complex luminance patterns caused by shadows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-398
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


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