Added luminance ramp alters perceived edge blur and contrast: A critical test for derivative-based models of edge coding

Keith A. May*, Mark A. Georgeson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many models of edge analysis in biological vision, the initial stage is a linear 2nd derivative operation. Such models predict that adding a linear luminance ramp to an edge will have no effect on the edge's appearance, since the ramp has no effect on the 2nd derivative. Our experiments did not support this prediction: adding a negative-going ramp to a positive-going edge (or vice-versa) greatly reduced the perceived blur and contrast of the edge. The effects on a fairly sharp edge were accurately predicted by a nonlinear multi-scale model of edge processing [Georgeson, M. A., May, K. A., Freeman, T. C. A., & Hesse, G. S. (in press). From filters to features: Scale-space analysis of edge and blur coding in human vision. Journal of Vision], in which a half-wave rectifier comes after the 1st derivative filter. But we also found that the ramp affected perceived blur more profoundly when the edge blur was large, and this greater effect was not predicted by the existing model. The model's fit to these data was much improved when the simple half-wave rectifier was replaced by a threshold-like transducer [May, K. A. & Georgeson, M. A. (2007). Blurred edges look faint, and faint edges look sharp: The effect of a gradient threshold in a multi-scale edge coding model. Vision Research, 47, 1705-1720.]. This modified model correctly predicted that the interaction between ramp gradient and edge scale would be much larger for blur perception than for contrast perception. In our model, the ramp narrows an internal representation of the gradient profile, leading to a reduction in perceived blur. This in turn reduces perceived contrast because estimated blur plays a role in the model's estimation of contrast. Interestingly, the model predicts that analogous effects should occur when the width of the window containing the edge is made narrower. This has already been confirmed for blur perception; here, we further support the model by showing a similar effect for contrast perception. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721-1731
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • blur
  • contrast
  • edge
  • Gaussian derivatives
  • human vision
  • psychophysics
  • scale
  • template


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