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The relation of phase noise and luminance contrast to overt attention in complex visual stimuli

Einhäuser, Wolfgang and Rutishauser, Ueli and Frady, E. Paxon and Nadler, Swantje and König, Peter and Koch, Christof (2006) The relation of phase noise and luminance contrast to overt attention in complex visual stimuli. Journal of Vision, 6 (11). pp. 1148-1158. ISSN 1534-7362. doi:10.1167/6.11.1.

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Models of attention are typically based on difference maps in low-level features but neglect higher order stimulus structure. To what extent does higher order statistics affect human attention in natural stimuli? We recorded eye movements while observers viewed unmodified and modified images of natural scenes. Modifications included contrast modulations (resulting in changes to first- and second-order statistics), as well as the addition of noise to the Fourier phase (resulting in changes to higher order statistics). We have the following findings: (1) Subjects' interpretation of a stimulus as a “natural” depiction of an outdoor scene depends on higher order statistics in a highly nonlinear, categorical fashion. (2) Confirming previous findings, contrast is elevated at fixated locations for a variety of stimulus categories. In addition, we find that the size of this elevation depends on higher order statistics and reduces with increasing phase noise. (3) Global modulations of contrast bias eye position toward high contrasts, consistent with a linear effect of contrast on fixation probability. This bias is independent of phase noise. (4) Small patches of locally decreased contrast repel eye position less than large patches of the same aggregate area, irrespective of phase noise. Our findings provide evidence that deviations from surrounding statistics, rather than contrast per se, underlie the well-established relation of contrast to fixation.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle
Rutishauser, Ueli0000-0002-9207-7069
Koch, Christof0000-0001-6482-8067
Additional Information:©2006 AVRO. Received September 2, 2005. Revision received September 5, 2006. Published October 9, 2006. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (W.E., Grant Nos. PBEZ2-107367 and PA00A-111447), NIMH, NGA, NSF, and Caltech’s "SURF" program. We thank A. Acik and H.-P. Frey for technical assistance and C. Quigley for editorial assistance.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PBEZ2-107367
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PA00A-111447
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
National Geospatial-Intelligence AgencyUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:attention, eye movements, saliency, phase noise, higher order statistics, natural scenes, fractals
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:EINjov06
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7215
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:16 Mar 2007
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 20:40

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