Royal Society Publishing

Relational Colour Constancy from Invariant Cone-Excitation Ratios

David H. Foster, Sergio M. C. Nascimento


Quantitative measurements of perceptual colour constancy show that human observers have a limited and variable ability to match coloured surfaces in scenes illuminated by different light sources. Observers can, however, make fast and reliable discriminations between changes in illuminant and changes in the reflecting properties of scenes, a discriminative ability that might be based on a visual coding of spatial colour relations. This coding could be provided by the ratios of cone-photoreceptor excitations produced by light from different surfaces: for a large class of pigmented surfaces and for surfaces with random spectral reflectances, these ratios are statistically almost invariant under changes in illumination by light from the sun and sky or from a planckian radiator. Cone-excitation ratios offer a possible, although not necessarily unique, basis for perceptual colour constancy in so far as it concerns colour relations.

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