Perceiving Illumination Inconsistencies in Scenes

Unknown author (2001-11-05)

The human visual system is adept at detecting and encoding statistical regularities in its spatio-temporal environment. Here we report an unexpected failure of this ability in the context of perceiving inconsistencies in illumination distributions across a scene. Contrary to predictions from previous studies [Enns and Rensink, 1990; Sun and Perona, 1996a, 1996b, 1997], we find that the visual system displays a remarkable lack of sensitivity to illumination inconsistencies, both in experimental stimuli and in images of real scenes. Our results allow us to draw inferences regarding how the visual system encodes illumination distributions across scenes. Specifically, they suggest that the visual system does not verify the global consistency of locally derived estimates of illumination direction.