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John Wilder, Jacob Feldman, Manish Singh; Contour complexity and contour detection. Journal of Vision 2015;15(6):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.6.6.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Itis well-known that “smooth” chains of oriented elements—contours—are more easily detected amid background noise than more undulating (i.e., “less smooth”) chains. Here, we develop a Bayesian framework for contour detection and show that it predicts that contour detection performance should decrease with the contour's complexity, quantified as the description length (DL; i.e., the negative logarithm of probability integrated along the contour). We tested this prediction in two experiments in which subjects were asked to detect simple open contours amid pixel noise. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate a consistent decline in performance with increasingly complex contours, as predicted by the Bayesian model. In Experiment 2, we confirmed that this effect is due to integrated complexity along the contour, and does not seem to depend on local stretches of linear structure. The results corroborate the probabilistic model of contours, and show how contour detection can be understood as a special case of a more general process—the identification of organized patterns in the environment.
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