December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Turning over a new leaf: Differences in search ability across naturalistic leaf litter textures
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Rebecca R Maguire
    University of St Andrews
  • Julie M Harris
    University of St Andrews
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4352. doi:
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      Rebecca R Maguire, Julie M Harris; Turning over a new leaf: Differences in search ability across naturalistic leaf litter textures. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4352.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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How do predators find prey in realistic scenes? Environments in the natural world are often complex, with texture varying greatly across them. For example, leaf litter is comprised of varying textures both within and across leaf types. However, experiments that study camouflage often present stimuli on simple backgrounds, not designed to mimic natural environments and their textures. This study sought to assess the difficulty of search where participants looked for grey, ovoid targets on simple artificial leaf litter backgrounds compared to searching on more complex or realistic ones. Simple backgrounds were made up of plain, monochromatic leaves, whereas more complex backgrounds contained leaves textured with visual noise or photographic samples of real leaves. Across trials, all three background types varied by: number of leaves (50-450); maximum variance in Michelson contrast of leaves (0.1-0.9); and maximum variance in orientation of leaves (5º-85º). Reaction time (RT) data were analysed to assess whether participants’ pattern of results for these metrics varied between the different background texture types. Overall, results showed targets were quickest to find on monochromatic leaves, followed by noise-textured followed by photo-textured. All three textures produced RT increases where leaf number was increased. Monochrome- and noise-textured backgrounds showed similar RT results for increasing variance in contrast (U-shaped function) and orientation (inverse U-shaped function). However, backgrounds of photo-textured leaves showed an inverse U-shaped RT function where contrast variance increased, and a steady increase in RT where angle variance increased. We hope that our results, particularly those from our monochrome- and noise-textured backgrounds, will provoke discussion around the possible benefits of compromise camouflage and high variance backgrounds. Nonetheless, our conflicting results from photo-textured trials suggest that findings where aspects of simple scenes are manipulated may not necessarily be directly applicable where similar aspects of more complex, natural scenes are changed.


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