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Jan Drewes, Felix A. Wichmann, Karl R. Gegenfurtner; Classification of natural scenes: Critical features revisited. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):561. doi: 10.1167/6.6.561.
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Human observers are capable of detecting animals within novel natural scenes with remarkable speed and accuracy. Despite the seeming complexity of such decisions it has been hypothesized that a simple global image feature, the relative abundance of high spatial frequencies at certain orientations, could underly such fast image classification (A. Torralba & A. Oliva, Network: Comput. Neural Syst., 2003).
We successfully used linear discriminant analysis to classify a set of 11.000 images into “animal” and “non-animal” images based on their individual amplitude spectra only (Drewes, Wichmann, Gegenfurtner VSS 2005). We proceeded to sort the images based on the performance of our classifier, retaining only the best and worst classified 400 images (“best animals”, “best distractors” and “worst animals”, “worst distractors”).
We used a Go/No-go paradigm to evaluate human performance on this subset of our images. Both reaction time and proportion of correctly classified images showed a significant effect of classification difficulty. Images more easily classified by our algorithm were also classified faster and better by humans, as predicted by the Torralba & Oliva hypothesis.
We then equated the amplitude spectra of the 400 images, which, by design, reduced algorithmic performance to chance whereas human performance was only slightly reduced (cf. Wichmann, Rosas, Gegenfurtner, VSS 2005). Most importantly, the same images as before were still classified better and faster, suggesting that even in the original condition features other than specifics of the amplitude spectrum made particular images easy to classify, clearly at odds with the Torralba & Oliva hypothesis.
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