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Vis Neurosci. 2009 Jan-Feb;26(1):133-45. doi: 10.1017/S0952523808080942. Epub 2009 Feb 10.

Variations in normal color vision. V. Simulations of adaptation to natural color environments.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA.


Modern accounts of color appearance differ in whether they assume that the perceptual primaries (e.g., white and the unique hues of red, green, blue, and yellow) correspond to unique states determined by the spectral sensitivities of the observer or by the spectral statistics of the environment. We examined the interaction between observers and their environments by asking how color perception should vary if appearance depends on fixed responses in a set of color channels, when the sensitivities of these channels are adapted in plausible ways to different environments. Adaptation was modeled as gain changes in the cones and in multiple postreceptoral channels tuned to different directions in color-luminance space. Gains were adjusted so that the average channel responses were equated across two environments or for the same environment during different seasons, based on sets of natural outdoor scenes (Webster et al., 2007). Because of adaptation, even observers with a shared underlying physiology should perceive color in significantly and systematically different ways when they are exposed to and thus adapted by different contexts. These include differences in achromatic settings (owing to variations in the average chromaticity of locations) and differences in perceived hue (because of differences in scene contrasts). Modeling these changes provides a way of simulating how colors might be experienced by individuals in different color environments and provides a measure of how much color appearance might be modulated for a given observer by variations in the environment.

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