Surface curvature from kinetic depth can affect lightness

Lindsay M. Peterson, Daniel J. Kersten, Damien J. Mannion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The light reaching the eye confounds the proportion of light reflected from surfaces in the environment with their illumination. To achieve constancy in perceived surface reflectance (lightness) across variations in illumination, the visual system must infer the relative contribution of reflectance to the incoming luminance signals. Previous studies have shown that contour and stereo cues to surface shape can affect the lightness of sawtooth luminance profiles. Here, we investigated whether cues to surface shape provided solely by motion (via the kinetic depth effect) can similarly influence lightness. Human observers judged the relative brightness of patches contained within abutting surfaces with identical luminance ramps. We found that the reported brightness differences were significantly lower when the kinetic depth effect supported the impression of curved surfaces, compared to similar conditions without the kinetic depth effect. This demonstrates the capacity of the visual system to use shape from motion to "explain away" alternative interpretations of luminance gradients, and supports the cue-invariance of the interaction between shape and lightness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1856-1864
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council (DP170100087 to Damien J. Mannion and Daniel J. Kersten) and an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship (to Lindsay M. Peterson). We thank Branka Spehar for comments on a draft of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Lightness
  • Motion
  • Psychophysics
  • Shape
  • Vision


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