Color constancy: Phenomenal or projective?

Perception and Psychophysics 70:219-228 (2008)
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Naive observers viewed a sequence of colored Mondrian patterns, simulated on a color monitor. Each pattern was presented twice in succession, first under one daylight illuminant with a correlated color temperature of either 16,000 or 4,000 K and then under the other, to test for color constancy. The observers compared the central square of the pattern across illuminants, either rating it for sameness of material appearance or sameness of hue and saturation or judging an objective property—that is, whether its change of color originated from a change in material or only from a change in illumination. Average color constancy indices were high for material appearance ratings and binary judgments of origin and low for hue–saturation ratings. Individuals’ performance varied, but judgments of material and of hue and saturation remained demarcated. Observers seem able to separate phenomenal percepts from their ontological projections of mental appearance onto physical phenomena; thus, even when a chromatic change alters perceived hue and saturation, observers can reliably infer the cause, the constancy of the underlying surface spectral reflectance.

Author's Profile

David H. Foster
University of Manchester


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