Perception of three-dimensional shape influences colour perception through mutual illumination

M. G. Bloj, D. Kersten, A. C. Hurlbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Objects in the natural world possess different visual attributes, including shape, colour, surface texture and motion. Previous perceptual studies have assumed that the brain analyses the colour of a surface independently of its three-dimensional shape and viewing geometry, although there are neural connections between colour and two-dimensional form processing early in the visual pathway. Here we show that colour perception is strongly influenced by three-dimensional shape perception in a novel, chromatic version of the Mach Card - a concave folded card with one side made of magenta paper and the other of white paper. The light reflected from the magenta paper casts a pinkish glow on the white side. The perceived colour of the white side changes from pale pink to deep magenta when the perceived shape of the card flips from concave to convex. The effect demonstrates that the human visual system incorporates knowledge of mutual illumination - the physics of light reflection between surfaces - at an early stage in colour perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-879
Number of pages3
Issue number6764
StatePublished - Dec 23 1999

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