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Iperception. 2012;3(3):190-215. doi: 10.1068/i0461. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Effects of memory colour on colour constancy for unknown coloured objects.

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Department of Psychology, University of Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Straße 10F, 35394 Giessen, Germany; e-mail:


The perception of an object's colour remains constant despite large variations in the chromaticity of the illumination-colour constancy. Hering suggested that memory colours, the typical colours of objects, could help in estimating the illuminant's colour and therefore be an important factor in establishing colour constancy. Here we test whether the presence of objects with diagnostical colours (fruits, vegetables, etc) within a scene influence colour constancy for unknown coloured objects in the scene. Subjects matched one of four Munsell papers placed in a scene illuminated under either a reddish or a greenish lamp with the Munsell book of colour illuminated by a neutral lamp. The Munsell papers were embedded in four different scenes-one scene containing diagnostically coloured objects, one scene containing incongruent coloured objects, a third scene with geometrical objects of the same colour as the diagnostically coloured objects, and one scene containing non-diagnostically coloured objects (eg, a yellow coffee mug). All objects were placed against a black background. Colour constancy was on average significantly higher for the scene containing the diagnostically coloured objects compared with the other scenes tested. We conclude that the colours of familiar objects help in obtaining colour constancy for unknown objects.


Colour constancy; colour appearance; memory colours; object colour

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