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Andrew M. Haun, Eli Peli; Perceived contrast in complex images. Journal of Vision 2013;13(13):3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.13.3.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To understand how different spatial frequencies contribute to the overall perceived contrast of complex, broadband photographic images, we adapted the classification image paradigm. Using natural images as stimuli, we randomly varied relative contrast amplitude at different spatial frequencies and had human subjects determine which images had higher contrast. Then, we determined how the random variations corresponded with the human judgments. We found that the overall contrast of an image is disproportionately determined by how much contrast is between 1 and 6 c/°, around the peak of the contrast sensitivity function (CSF). We then employed the basic components of contrast psychophysics modeling to show that the CSF alone is not enough to account for our results and that an increase in gain control strength toward low spatial frequencies is necessary. One important consequence of this is that contrast constancy, the apparent independence of suprathreshold perceived contrast and spatial frequency, will not hold during viewing of natural images. We also found that images with darker low-luminance regions tended to be judged as having higher overall contrast, which we interpret as the consequence of darker local backgrounds resulting in higher band-limited contrast response in the visual system.
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