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Ruth Rosenholtz, B. J. Balas, Alvin Raj, Lisa Nakano, Livia Ilie; The Visual System as Statistician: Statistical Representation in Early Vision. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.7.23.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We are unable to process all of our visual input with equal fidelity. At any given moment, our visual systems seem to represent the item we are looking at fairly faithfully. However, evidence suggests that our visual systems encode the rest of the visual input more coarsely. What is this coarse representation? Recent evidence suggests that this coarse encoding consists of a representation in terms of summary statistics. For a complex set of statistics, such a representation can provide a rich and detailed percept of many aspects of a visual scene. However, such a representation is also lossy; we would expect the inherent ambiguities and confusions to have profound implications for vision. For example, a complex pattern, viewed peripherally, might be poorly represented by its summary statistics, leading to the degraded recognition experienced under conditions of visual crowding. Difficult visual search might occur when summary statistics could not adequately discriminate between a target-present and distractor-only patch of the stimuli. Certain illusory percepts might arise from valid interpretations of the available - lossy - information. It is precisely visual tasks upon which a statistical representation has significant impact that provide the evidence for such a representation in early vision. I will summarize recent evidence that early vision computes summary statistics based upon such tasks.
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