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Jeroen J. M. Granzier, Eli Brenner, Jeroen B. J. Smeets; Reliable identification by color under natural conditions. Journal of Vision 2009;9(1):39. https://doi.org/10.1167/9.1.39.
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In order to recognize objects on the basis of the way in which they reflect different wavelengths of light, the visual system must deal with the different illuminant and background conditions under which the objects are seen. To test this ability under natural conditions, subjects were asked to name 6 uniformly colored papers. The experiment started by showing subjects six papers simultaneously in a normally illuminated room, and instructing them about how to name them. The papers were easy to differentiate when seen together but they were so similar that subjects only identified 87% correctly when they were presented in isolation under otherwise identical conditions to those during the instruction. During the main part of the experiment subjects walked between several indoor and outdoor locations that differed considerably in lighting and background colors. At each location subjects were asked to identify one paper. They correctly identified the paper on 55% of the trials (well above chance level), despite the fact that the variation in the light reaching their eyes from the same paper at different positions was much larger than that from different papers at the same position. We discuss that under natural conditions color constancy is probably as good as it can be considering the theoretical limitations.
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