Lightness contrast & assimilation: testing the hypotheses


  • Predrag Nedimović Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Sučica Zdravković Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Serbia



lightness, contrast, assimilation, spatial frequency, differential stimulation hypothesis


Lightness contrast alters lightness of a target decreasing its similarity with neighbouring surfaces (inducers), while lightness assimilation has an opposite effect, similarity is increased. Previous studies emphasized some aspects of stimulation that favour occurrence of one or both of these two phenomena: spatial frequency of the inducers, magnitude and direction of the reflectance difference between the target and the inducers. More importantly, based on previous studies three precise hypotheses can be formulated that predict occurrence of the two phenomena: spatial frequency, differential stimulation and assimilation asymmetry.

We manipulated target and inducers’ reflectance, and inducers’ spatial frequency. This enabled us not only to test the importance of these factors, but to predict lightness for each stimulus, according to all three hypotheses. Our results confirmed the importance of tested factors for both lightness contrast and assimilation.

Unfortunately, the proposed hypotheses were poor in predicting the obtained data. Differential stimulation hypothesis correctly predicted obtained effect in less than half situations, since small reflectance differences produced contrast, and large differences produced assimilation. Spatial frequency hypothesis did not correctly predict the strength of obtained effects, and we obtained largest assimilation effects with low spatial frequency inducers. Finally, assimilation asymmetry hypothesis did not predict a single obtained effect. Contrary to this hypothesis predictions, we obtained contrast with decrement, and assimilation with increment inducers.


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How to Cite

Nedimović, P., & Zdravković, S. (2021). Lightness contrast & assimilation: testing the hypotheses. Primenjena Psihologija, 14(3), 253–275.