If I understand it correctly, humans can discriminate shades and colours based on their inherent contrast, as in we can see colors because there are different colors. Same for shades and for acoustic phenomens, because to differentiate two sounds they have to differ in some quality of sound: pitch, loudness, duration.

So the question is whether all perception is contrast based. One I would presume not to be contrast based is spatial perception, because it simply is there and always works in a standard manner.

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    $\begingroup$ I think contrast is incredibly important to perception to the extent that I would answer "Yes" or at least "Mostly yes", but I also think a proper answer to this question would be just far too in depth, which makes the question rather too broad. Note that spatial perception is also based on contrasts, but on contrasts in space rather than other stimulus features. That said, there are some examples of absolute perception, "perfect pitch" is one, and some types of perception are probably more akin to threshold phenomena. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jul 24 '17 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ Sure. $\endgroup$ – Probably Aug 2 '17 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ I think this question is fundamentally really good. However, as othwe users indicate, it is too broad. Limiting it to a single fundamental concept in one modality would greatly increase the potential of this post, e.g., is intensity perception (luminance perception) in the visual system relative or absolute? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Aug 5 '17 at 11:19

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