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Anthony D. D'Antona, Jeffrey S. Perry, Wilson S. Geisler; Humans make efficient use of natural image statistics when performing spatial interpolation. Journal of Vision 2013;13(14):11. doi: 10.1167/13.14.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual systems learn through evolution and experience over the lifespan to exploit the statistical structure of natural images when performing visual tasks. Understanding which aspects of this statistical structure are incorporated into the human nervous system is a fundamental goal in vision science. To address this goal, we measured human ability to estimate the intensity of missing image pixels in natural images. Human estimation accuracy is compared with various simple heuristics (e.g., local mean) and with optimal observers that have nearly complete knowledge of the local statistical structure of natural images. Human estimates are more accurate than those of simple heuristics, and they match the performance of an optimal observer that knows the local statistical structure of relative intensities (contrasts). This optimal observer predicts the detailed pattern of human estimation errors and hence the results place strong constraints on the underlying neural mechanisms. However, humans do not reach the performance of an optimal observer that knows the local statistical structure of the absolute intensities, which reflect both local relative intensities and local mean intensity. As predicted from a statistical analysis of natural images, human estimation accuracy is negligibly improved by expanding the context from a local patch to the whole image. Our results demonstrate that the human visual system exploits efficiently the statistical structure of natural images.
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