Stereoscopic slant perception around a vertical axis (horizontal slant) is often found to be strongly attenuated relative to geometric prediction. Stereo slant is much greater, however, when an adjacent surface, stereoscopically in the frontal plane, is added. This slant enhancement is often attributed to the presence of a 'reference surface' or to a spatial change in the disparity gradient (introducing second and higher derivatives of disparity). Gillam, Chambers, and Russo (1988 Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 14 163 -175) questioned the role of these factors in that placement of the frontal-plane surface in a direction collinear with the slant axis (twist configuration) sharply reduced latency for perceiving slant whereas placing the same surface in a direction orthogonal to the slant axis (hinge configuration) had little effect. We here confirm these findings for slant magnitude, showing a striking advantage for twist over hinge configurations. We also examined contrast slant measured on the frontal-plane surface in the hinge and twist configurations. Under conditions where test and inducer surfaces have centres at the same depth for twist and hinge, we found that twist configurations produced strong negative slant contrast, while hinge configurations produced significant positive contrast or slant assimilation. We conclude that stereo slant and contrast effects for neighbouring surfaces can only be understood from the patterns and gradients of step disparities present. It is not adequate to consider the second surface merely as a reference slant for the first or as having its effect via a spatial change in the disparity gradient.