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For a color constant observer, the color appearance of a surface is independent of the spectral composition of the light illuminating it. We ask how rapidly color appearance judgments are updated following a change in illumination. We obtained repeated binary color classifications for a set of stimuli defined by their reflectance functions and rendered under either sunlight or skylight. We used these classifications to derive boundaries in color space that identify the observer's achromatic point. In steady-state conditions of illumination, the achromatic point lay close to the illuminant chromaticity. In our experiment, the illuminant changed abruptly every 21 s (at the onset of every 10th trial), allowing us to track changes in the achromatic point that were caused by the cycle of illuminant changes. In one condition, the test reflectance was embedded in a spatial pattern of reflectance samples under consistent illumination. The achromatic point migrated across color space between the chromaticities of the steady-state achromatic points. This update took several trials rather than being immediate. To identify the factors that governed perceptual updating of appearance judgments, we used two further conditions, one in which the test reflectance was presented in isolation and one in which the surrounding reflectances were rendered under an inconsistent and unchanging illumination. Achromatic settings were not well predicted by the information available from scenes at a single time point. Instead, the achromatic points showed a strong dependence on the history of chromatic samples. The strength of this dependence differed between observers and was modulated by the spatial context.

Original publication




Journal article


J Vis

Publication Date





Adaptation, Ocular, Color Perception, Color Vision, Humans, Lighting, Photic Stimulation