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Karl R Gegenfurtner, Doris I Braun, Felix A Wichmann; The importance of phase information for recognizing natural images. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):519. doi: 10.1167/3.9.519.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Fourier phase plays an important role in determining image structure. For example, when the phase spectrum of an image showing a flower is swapped with the phase spectrum of an image showing a tank, then we will usually perceive a tank in the resulting image, even though the amplitude spectrum is still that of the flower. Also, when the phases of an image are randomly swapped across frequencies, the resulting image becomes impossible to recognize. Our goal was to evaluate the effect of phase manipulations in a more quantitative manner. On each trial subjects viewed two images of natural scenes. The subject had to indicate which one of the two images contained an animal. The spectra of the images were manipulated by adding random phase noise at each frequency. The phase noise was uniformly distributed in the interval [-phi,phi], where phi was varied between 0 degree and 180 degrees. Image pairs were displayed for 100 msec. Subjects were remarkably resistant to the addition of phase noise. Even with [−120,120] degree noise, subjects still were at a level of 75% correct. The introduction of phase noise leads to a reduction of image contrast. Subjects were slightly better than a simple prediction based on this contrast reduction. However, when contrast response functions were measured in the same experimental paradigm, we found that performance in the phase noise experiment was significantly lower than that predicted by the corresponding contrast reduction.
Therefore, it is not only the effect of phase on local image features, but also phase information per se that determines our percept of natural images.
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