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Vision Res. 1994 Jun;34(12):1595-604.

Contrast as a depth cue.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


One consequence of aerial perspective is that far objects have lower contrast than near objects. We tested the efficacy of contrast as a cue for depth perception by measuring the apparent, relative depth of two areas that differed in contrast with a background and in size. We tested monocularly and binocularly. Differences in contrast were achieved by making the areas different in luminance, than varying the luminance of the background. Subjects reported that the area having lower contrast with the background appeared farther than the area having higher contrast. Even when size opposed it, contrast continued to have a significant effect on depth perception. Monocular observation yielded larger apparent depth than binocular observation. Contrast is an effective depth cue in the absence of any other depth information. We suggest that contrast acts as a pictorial depth cue simulating the optical effects of aerial perspective.

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