Researchers studying surface color perception have typically used
stimuli that consist of a small number of matte patches (real or
simulated) embedded in a plane perpendicular to the line of sight (a
“Mondrian,” Land & McCann, 1971). Reliable estimation of the color of a matte
surface is a difficult if not impossible computational problem in such
limited scenes (Maloney, 1999). In more
realistic, three-dimensional scenes the difficulty of the problem
increases, in part, because the effective illumination incident on the
surface (the light field) now depends on surface orientation and location.
We review recent work in multiple laboratories that examines (1) the
degree to which the human visual system discounts the light field in
judging matte surface lightness and color and (2) what illuminant cues the
visual system uses in estimating the flow of light in a scene.