Seeing Black and White

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How the human visual system determines the lightness of a surface, that is, its whiteness, blackness, or grayness, remains—like vision in general—a mystery. In fact, we have not even been able to create a machine that can determine, through an artificial vision system, whether an object is white, black, or gray. Although the photoreceptors in the eye are driven by light, the light reflected by a surface does not reveal its shade of gray. Depending upon the level of illumination, a surface of any shade of gray can reflect any amount of light.

In Seeing Black and White Alan Gilchrist ties together over 30 years of his own research on lightness, and presents the first comprehensive, historical review of empirical work on lightness, covering the past 150 years of research on images ranging from the simple to the complex. He also describes and analyzes the many theories of lightness—including his own—showing what each can and cannot explain. Gilchrist highlights the forgotten-yet-exciting work done in the first third of the twentieth century, describing several crucial experiments and examining the brilliant but nearly unknown work of the Hungarian gestalt theorist, Lajos Kardos.

Gilchrists review also includes a survey of the pattern of lightness errors made by humans, many of which result in delightful illusions. He argues that because these errors are not random, but systematic, they are the signature of our visual software, and so provide a powerful tool that can reveal how lightness is computed. Based on this argument and the concepts of anchoring, grouping, and frames of reference, Gilchrist presents a new theoretical framework that explains an unprecedented array of lightness errors. As both the first comprehensive overview of research on lightness and the first unified presentation of Gilchrists new theoretical framework Seeing Black and White will be an invaluable resource for vision scientists, cognitive psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Brian Marshall, O.D.(Marshall Family Eye Care)
Description: This book provides an understanding of how the human visual system perceives light.
Purpose: The primary purpose is to present a comprehensive synopsis of how we see and organize light and color perception through a combination of basic vision science and theoretical conclusions.
Audience: Although this book is geared towards psychology students, eye care professionals and vision scientists will also find it to be useful in helping patients understand the process of vision. The author is well known and an expert in the field of visual perception.
Features: The perception of light by the human visual system is still largely a mystery. This book provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of what is currently known about the visual perception of light. An in-depth review and critique is presented of the works of several of the great thinkers in the field along with the importance of depth cues and lightness theories. Throughout the book, the author ties together the various theories and empirical evidence to formulate a theoretical framework for understanding the great mystery of light perception. The book concludes with the author's own explanations. The section describing the various lightness errors and illusions is well written and very interesting. Graphs and pictures are used throughout the book to effectively describe the visual process.
Assessment: This book provides a brilliant synopsis of what is currently known about our perception of light. It does a wonderful job of incorporating basic science with clinical and theoretical applications. The way the principles are laid out will pique the interest of anyone interested in how we see and perceive light. The exposition is clear and the book will be beneficial for readers who are new to the area and a valuable resource for experts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195187168
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/8/2006
  • Series: Oxford Psychology Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 920,820
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Classic Period
3. The Katz Period
4. The Gestalt Period
5. The Contrast Period
6. The Computational Period
7. Computational Models
8. Illumination Perception
9. The Anchoring Problem
10. Errors in Lightness
11. An Anchoring Model of Errors
12. Theories of Lightness
13. Concluding Thoughts

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