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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1996 Aug;22(4):986-1004.

Effects of lighting on the perception of facial surfaces.

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  • 1ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories, Kyoto, Japan.


A series of experiments is reported that investigated the effects of variations in lighting and viewpoint on the recognition and matching of facial surfaces. In matching tasks, changing lighting reduced performance, as did changing view, but changing both did not further reduce performance. There were also differences between top and bottom lighting. Recognizing familiar surfaces and matching across changes in viewpoint were more accurate when lighting was from above than when it was from below the heads, and matching between different directions of top lighting was more accurate than between different directions of bottom lighting. Top lighting also benefited matching between views of unfamiliar objects (amoebae), though this benefit was not found for inverted faces. The results are difficult to explain if edge- or image-based representations mediate face processing and seem more consistent with an account in which lighting from above helps the derivation of 3-dimensional shape.

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