The Effect of Illuminant Position on Perceived Curvature

William Curran, A. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


In shaded scenes surface features can appear either concave or convex, depending upon the viewers judment about the direction of the prevailing illuminant. If other curvature cues are added to the image this ambiguity can be removed. However, it is not clear to what extent, if any, illuminant positin exerts an influence on the perceived magnitude of surface curvature. Subjects were presented with pairs of spherical surface patches in a curavture matching task. The patches were defined by shading and texture cues. The percevied curvature of a standard patch was measured as a function of light source position. We found a clear effect of light source position on apparent curvature. Perceived curvature decreased as light source tilt increased and as light source slant decreased. We also found that the strength of this effect is determined partly by a surface's reflectance function and partly by the relative weight of the texture cue. When a specular component was added to the stimuli, the effect of light source orientation was weakened. The weight of the texture cue was manipulated by disrupting the regular distribution of texture elements. We found an inverse relationship between the strength of the effecct and the weight of the texture cue: lowering the texture cue weight resulted in an enhancement of the illuminant position effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1399-1410
Number of pages12
JournalVision Research
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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