Psychological Research

, Volume 69, Issue 1–2, pp 30–40 | Cite as

Interaction of color and geometric cues in depth perception: When does “red” mean “near”?

  • Christophe R. C. GuibalEmail author
  • Birgitta Dresp
Original Article


Luminance and color are strong and self-sufficient cues to pictorial depth in visual scenes and images. The present study investigates the conditions under which luminance or color either strengthens or overrides geometric depth cues. We investigated how luminance contrast associated with the color red and color contrast interact with relative height in the visual field, partial occlusion, and interposition to determine the probability that a given figure presented in a pair is perceived as “nearer” than the other. Latencies of “near” responses were analyzed to test for effects of attentional selection. Figures in a pair were supported by luminance contrast (Experiment 1) or isoluminant color contrast (Experiment 2) and combined with one of the three geometric cues. The results of Experiment 1 show that the luminance contrast of a color (here red), when it does not interact with other colors, produces the same effects as achromatic luminance contrasts. The probability of “near” increases with the luminance contrast of the color stimulus, the latencies for “near” responses decrease with increasing luminance contrast. Partial occlusion is found to be a strong enough pictorial cue to support a weaker red luminance contrast. Interposition cues lose out against cues of spatial position and partial occlusion. The results of Experiment 2, with isoluminant displays of varying color contrast, reveal that red color contrast on a light background supported by any of the three geometric cues wins over green or white supported by any of the three geometric cues. On a dark background, red color contrast supported by the interposition cue loses out against green or white color contrast supported by partial occlusion. These findings reveal that color is not an independent depth cue, but is strongly influenced by luminance contrast and stimulus geometry. Systematically shorter response latencies for stronger “near” percepts demonstrate that selective visual attention reliably detects the most likely depth cue combination in a given configuration.


Partial Occlusion Luminance Contrast Selective Visual Attention Boundary Contour System Pictorial Depth 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Optometry and Visual ScienceCity University LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.CNRS and Faculté des Sciences du SportUniversité Montpellier 1MontpellierFrance

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