The role of texture in shape from shading: are humans biased towards seeing relief textures?

Andrew J. Schofield, Gillian Hesse, Mark A. Georgeson, P.B. Rock

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


When a textured surface is modulated in depth and illuminated, the level of illumination varies across the surface, producing coarse-scale luminance modulations (LM) and amplitude modulation (AM) of the fine-scale texture. If the surface has an albedo texture (reflectance variation) then the LM and AM components are always in-phase, but if the surface has a relief texture the phase relation between LM and AM varies with the direction and nature of the illuminant. We showed observers sinusoidal luminance and amplitude modulations of a binary noise texture, in various phase relationships, in a paired-comparisons design. In the first experiment, the combinations under test were presented in different temporal intervals. Observers indicated which interval contained the more depthy stimulus. LM and AM in-phase were seen as more depthy than LM alone which was in turn more depthy than LM and AM in anti-phase, but the differences were weak. In the second experiment the combinations under test were presented in a single interval on opposite obliques of a plaid pattern. Observers were asked to indicate the more depthy oblique. Observers produced the same depth rankings as before, but now the effects were more robust and significant. Intermediate LM/AM phase relationships were also tested: phase differences less than 90 deg were seen as more depthy than LM-only, while those greater than 90 deg were seen as less depthy. We conjecture that the visual system construes phase offsets between LM and AM as indicating relief texture and thus perceives these combinations as depthy even when their phase relationship is other than zero. However, when different LM/AM pairs are combined in a plaid, the signals on the obliques are unlikely to indicate corrugations of the same texture, and in this case the out-of-phase pairing is seen as flat. [Supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)].
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventTwenty-eighth European Conference on Visual Perception - A Corunña, Spain
Duration: 22 Aug 200526 Aug 2005


ConferenceTwenty-eighth European Conference on Visual Perception
CityA Corunña

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in ECVP 2005 Abstract Supplement, Perception, 34 (Suppl. S), p.56, ISSN: 0001-4966.


  • textured surface
  • depth modulation
  • illumination
  • coarse-scale luminance modulations
  • amplitude modulation

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