Image statistics and the perception of surface gloss and lightness
Despite previous data demonstrating the critical importance of 3D surface geometry in the perception of gloss and lightness, I. Motoyoshi, S. Nishida, L. Sharan, and E. H. Adelson (2007) recently proposed that a simple image statistic—histogram or sub-band skew—is computed by the visual system to infer the gloss and albedo of surfaces. One key source of evidence used to support this claim was an experiment in which adaptation to skewed image statistics resulted in opponent aftereffects in observers' judgments of gloss and lightness. We report a series of adaptation experiments that were designed to assess the cause of these aftereffects. We replicated their original aftereffects in gloss but found no consistent aftereffect in lightness. We report that adaptation to zero-skew adaptors produced similar aftereffects as positively skewed adaptors, and that negatively skewed adaptors induced no reliable aftereffects. We further find that the adaptation effect observed with positively skewed adaptors is not robust to changes in mean luminance that diminish the intensity of the luminance extrema. Finally, we show that adaptation to positive skew reduces (rather than increases) the apparent lightness of light pigmentation on non-uniform albedo surfaces. These results challenge the view that the adaptation results reported by Motoyoshi et al. (2007) provide evidence that skew is explicitly computed by the visual system.