It is important to remember that prints are limited to a relatively narrow range of tones. Your eyes/brain and the real world has a lot more dynamic range.

For that reason, we are always trying to squeeze the image into that narrow range. The decisions we make about how we effect that "squeeze" really affects our perception of the results.

There is also an interplay between the contents of the scene and our perception of how dark or light it is. If, for example, a scene has a strong centre of interest, we will be much more likely to react negatively to the lightness or darkness of a print if that centre of interest is either markedly lighter or darker than one would expect it to be, or if in relation to the other parts of the scene, that centre of interest is either markedly lighter or darker than one would expect it to be.

That is where contrast can also come into play.