The first explanation, central to the Helmholtzian classical theory of perception, is that we apply (usually unconsciously) what we have learned from our experiences with physical regularities of the world, and we thereby infer (also unconsciously) what the distal situation around us must be. Thus, we use the information about the distances (d1, d2) implied by the perspective in Figure 1Ato estimate the gray disks' distal sizes, given their proximal sizes as picked up by the receptors in the retina. Similarly, we take the differences in illumination and our knowledge about how light bounces off surfaces to estimate the reflectance in each case of color or lightness constancy.
Note that this theory of the constancies assumes the viewer has considerable mental structure available beyond the information in the proximal stimulation and has learned the ecological likelihoods involved. It does explain many other perceptual phenomena as well, including contrast and other illusions, and many of the Gestalt phenomena of organization.
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