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Toward a Perceptual Theory of Transparency Manish Singh and Barton L. Anderson

Summary: Toward a Perceptual Theory of Transparency
Manish Singh and Barton L. Anderson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Theories of perceptual transparency have typically been developed within the context of a physical model
that generates the percept of transparency (F. Metelli's episcotister model, 1974b). Here 2 fundamental
questions are investigated: (a) When does the visual system initiate the percept of one surface seen
through another? (b) How does it assign surface properties to a transparent layer? Results reveal
systematic deviations from the predictions of Metelli's model, both for initiating image decomposition
into multiple surfaces and for assigning surface attributes. Specifically, results demonstrate that the visual
system uses Michelson contrast as a critical image variable to initiate percepts of transparency and to
assign transmittance to transparent surfaces. Findings are discussed in relation to previous theories of
transparency, lightness, brightness, and contrast­contrast.
Our visual world consists of coherent objects and surfaces
distributed in a three-dimensional environment. The inputs to our
visual systems, however, contain no such objects or surfaces--
only two-dimensional arrays of light intensities. These light inten-
sities result from a combined effect of many variables, including
surface reflectance, the intensity and position of light sources,
relative surface orientation, and characteristics of the optical me-
dium. As a result, identical surfaces can project very different


Source: Anderson, Barton L. - School of Psychology, University of Sydney
Singh, Manish - Department of Psychology, Rutgers University


Collections: Biology and Medicine