Perception of local shape from shading

Roderik G F Erens*, Astrid M L Kappers, Jan J. Koenderink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Theoretically, metric solid shape is not determined uniquely by shading. Consequently, human vision has difficulty in categorizing shape when shading is the only cue. In the present research, subjects were required to categorize shaded quadric surfaces. We found that they were rather poor at this task; they confused hyperbolic and elliptic (both convex and concave) shapes easily. When a cast shadow visually indicated the direction of the illuminant, they were able to notice the concavity or convexity of elliptic shapes. However, they still confused elliptic and hyperbolic ones. Finally, when an animated sequence of eight intensity patterns belonging to one quadric shape had been displayed, the subjects were able to categorize the quadrics. However, the results are still quite moderate. Our experiments indicate that local shading structure is only a weak shape cue when presented in the absence of other visual cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1993


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