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Md Mushfiqul Alam, Kedarnath P. Vilankar, David J. Field, Damon M. Chandler; Local masking in natural images: A database and analysis. Journal of Vision 2014;14(8):22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.8.22.
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Studies of visual masking have provided a wide range of important insights into the processes involved in visual coding. However, very few of these studies have employed natural scenes as masks. Little is known on how the particular features found in natural scenes affect visual detection thresholds and how the results obtained using unnatural masks relate to the results obtained using natural masks. To address this issue, this paper describes a psychophysical study designed to obtain local contrast detection thresholds for a database of natural images. Via a three-alternative forced-choice experiment, we measured thresholds for detecting 3.7 cycles/° vertically oriented log-Gabor noise targets placed within an 85 × 85-pixels patch (1.9° patch) drawn from 30 natural images from the CSIQ image database (Larson & Chandler, Journal of Electronic Imaging, 2010). Thus, for each image, we obtained a masking map in which each entry in the map denotes the root mean squared contrast threshold for detecting the log-Gabor noise target at the corresponding spatial location in the image. From qualitative observations we found that detection thresholds were affected by several patch properties such as visual complexity, fineness of textures, sharpness, and overall luminance. Our quantitative analysis shows that except for the sharpness measure (correlation coefficient of 0.7), the other tested low-level mask features showed a weak correlation (correlation coefficients less than or equal to 0.52) with the detection thresholds. Furthermore, we evaluated the performance of a computational contrast gain control model that performed fairly well with an average correlation coefficient of 0.79 in predicting the local contrast detection thresholds. We also describe specific choices of parameters for the gain control model. The objective of this database is to provide researchers with a large ground-truth dataset in order to further investigate the properties of the human visual system using natural masks.
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