In constancy experiments, humans report very small changes in appearance with substantial illumination changes. Hermann von Helmholtz introduced the term "discounting the illuminant " to describe 19th century thinking about underlying mechanisms of constancy. It uses an indirect approach. Since observers see objects as constant, observers "must" be able to detect the spatial and spectral changes in illumination and automatically compensate by altering the signals from the quanta catches of retinal receptors. Instead of solving the problem directly by calculating an object"s reflectance from the array of scene radiances, Helmholtz chose to solve the problem of identifying the illumination. Twentieth century experiments by Hubel and Wiesel, Campbell, Land, and Gibson demonstrate the power of mechanisms using spatial comparisons. This paper analyses a series of different experiments looking for unequivocal evidence that either supports "discounting the illuminant" or supports spatial comparisons as the underlying mechanism of constancy.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.