Color constrains depth in da vinci stereopsis for camouflage but not occlusion

Susan G. Wardle*, Barbara J. Gillam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Monocular regions that occur with binocular viewing of natural scenes can produce a strong perception of depth-"da Vinci stereopsis." They occur either when part of the background is occluded in one eye, or when a nearer object is camouflaged against a background surface in one eye's view. There has been some controversy over whether da Vinci depth is constrained by geometric or ecological factors. Here we show that the color of the monocular region constrains the depth perceived from camouflage, but not occlusion, as predicted by ecological considerations. Quantitative depth was found in both cases, but for camouflage only when the color of the monocular region matched the binocular background. Unlike previous reports, depth failed even when nonmatching colors satisfied conditions for perceptual transparency. We show that placing a colored line at the boundary between the binocular and monocular regions is sufficient to eliminate depth from camouflage. When both the background and the monocular region contained vertical contours that could be fused, some observers appeared to use fusion, and others da Vinci constraints, supporting the existence of a separate da Vinci mechanism. The results show that da Vinci stereopsis incorporates color constraints and is more complex than previously assumed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1525-1540
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


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