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Tushar Chauhan, Kaida Xiao, Sophie Wuerger; Chromatic and luminance sensitivity for skin and skinlike textures. Journal of Vision 2019;19(1):13. doi: 10.1167/19.1.13.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Despite the importance of the appearance of human skin for theoretical and practical purposes, little is known about visual sensitivity to subtle skin-tone changes, and whether the human visual system is indeed optimized to discern skin-color changes that confer some evolutionary advantage. Here, we report discrimination thresholds in a three-dimensional chromatic-luminance color space for natural skin and skinlike textures, and compare these to thresholds for uniform stimuli of the same mean color. We find no evidence that discrimination performance is superior along evolutionarily relevant color directions. Instead, discriminability is primarily determined by the prevailing illumination, and discrimination ellipses are aligned with the daylight locus. More specifically, the area and orientation of discrimination ellipses are governed by the chromatic distance between the stimulus and the illumination. Since this is true for both uniform and textured stimuli, it is likely to be driven by adaptation to mean stimulus color. Natural skin texture itself does not confer any advantage for discrimination performance. Furthermore, we find that discrimination boundaries for skin, skinlike, and scrambled skin stimuli are consistently larger than those for uniform stimuli, suggesting a possible adaptation to higher order color statistics of skin. This is in line with findings by Hansen, Giesel, and Gegenfurtner (2008) for other natural stimuli (fruit and vegetables). Human observers are also more sensitive to skin-color changes under simulated daylight as opposed to fluorescent light. The reduced sensitivity is driven by a decline in sensitivity along the luminance axis, which is qualitatively consistent with predictions from a Von Kries adaptation model.
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