Inferred motion perception of light sources in 3D scenes is color-blind

Holly E. Gerhard, Laurence T. Maloney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In everyday scenes, the illuminant can vary spatially in chromaticity and luminance, and change over time (e.g. sunset). Such variation generates dramatic image effects too complex for any contemporary machine vision system to overcome, yet human observers are remarkably successful at inferring object properties separately from lighting, an ability linked with estimation and tracking of light field parameters. Which information does the visual system use to infer light field dynamics? Here, we specifically ask whether color contributes to inferred light source motion. Observers viewed 3D surfaces illuminated by an out-of-view moving collimated source (sun) and a diffuse source (sky). In half of the trials, the two sources differed in chromaticity, thereby providing more information about motion direction. Observers discriminated light motion direction above chance, and only the least sensitive observer benefited slightly from the added color information, suggesting that color plays only a very minor role for inferring light field dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-100
Number of pages3
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • 3D perception
  • Color constancy
  • Illumination perception
  • Material perception
  • Motion perception
  • Scene understanding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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