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Iván Marín-Franch, David H. Foster; Number of perceptually distinct surface colors in natural scenes. Journal of Vision 2010;10(9):9. doi: 10.1167/10.9.9.
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© 2016 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
The ability to perceptually identify distinct surfaces in natural scenes by virtue of their color depends not only on the relative frequency of surface colors but also on the probabilistic nature of observer judgments. Previous methods of estimating the number of discriminable surface colors, whether based on theoretical color gamuts or recorded from real scenes, have taken a deterministic approach. Thus, a three-dimensional representation of the gamut of colors is divided into elementary cells or points which are spaced at one discrimination-threshold unit intervals and which are then counted. In this study, information-theoretic methods were used to take into account both differing surface-color frequencies and observer response uncertainty. Spectral radiances were calculated from 50 hyperspectral images of natural scenes and were represented in a perceptually almost uniform color space. The average number of perceptually distinct surface colors was estimated as 7.3 × 103, much smaller than that based on counting methods. This number is also much smaller than the number of distinct points in a scene that are, in principle, available for reliable identification under illuminant changes, suggesting that color constancy, or the lack of it, does not generally determine the limit on the use of color for surface identification.
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