Asymmetric perceptual confounds between canonical lightings and materials

Fan Zhang*, Huib de Ridder, Sylvia C. Pont

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


To better understand the interactions between material perception and light perception, we further developed our material probe MatMix 1.0 into MixIM 1.0, which allows optical mixing of canonical lighting modes. We selected three canonical lighting modes (ambient, focus, and brilliance) and created scenes to represent the three illuminations. Together with four canonical material modes (matte, velvety, specular, glittery), this resulted in 12 basis images (the "bird set"). These images were optically mixed in our probing method. Three experiments were conducted with different groups of observers. In Experiment 1, observers were instructed to manipulate MixIM 1.0 and match optically mixed lighting modes while discounting the materials. In Experiment 2, observers were shown a pair of stimuli and instructed to simultaneously judge whether the materials and lightings were the same or different in a four-category discrimination task. In Experiment 3, observers performed both the matching and discrimination tasks in which only the ambient and focus light were implemented. Overall, the matching and discrimination results were comparable as (a) robust asymmetric perceptual confounds were found and confirmed in both types of tasks, (b) performances were consistent and all above chance levels, and (c) observers had higher sensitivities to our canonical materials than to our canonical lightings. The latter result may be explained in terms of a generic insensitivity for naturally occurring variations in light conditions. Our findings suggest that midlevel image features are more robust across different materials than across different lightings and, thus, more diagnostic for materials than for lightings, causing the asymmetric perceptual confounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrimination
  • Light perception
  • Matching
  • Material perception
  • Material-lighting confounds


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