Bars and edges: what makes a feature for human vision?

Mark A. Georgeson, Gillian S. Barbieri-Hesse

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


There have been two main approaches to feature detection in human and computer vision - luminance-based and energy-based. Bars and edges might arise from peaks of luminance and luminance gradient respectively, or bars and edges might be found at peaks of local energy, where local phases are aligned across spatial frequency. This basic issue of definition is important because it guides more detailed models and interpretations of early vision. Which approach better describes the perceived positions of elements in a 3-element contour-alignment task? We used the class of 1-D images defined by Morrone and Burr in which the amplitude spectrum is that of a (partially blurred) square wave and Fourier components in a given image have a common phase. Observers judged whether the centre element (eg ±458 phase) was to the left or right of the flanking pair (eg 0º phase). Lateral offset of the centre element was varied to find the point of subjective alignment from the fitted psychometric function. This point shifted systematically to the left or right according to the sign of the centre phase, increasing with the degree of blur. These shifts were well predicted by the location of luminance peaks and other derivative-based features, but not by energy peaks which (by design) predicted no shift at all. These results on contour alignment agree well with earlier ones from a more explicit feature-marking task, and strongly suggest that human vision does not use local energy peaks to locate basic first-order features. [Supported by the Wellcome Trust (ref: 056093)]
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2003
Event26th European Conference on Visual Preception - Paris , France
Duration: 1 Sept 20035 Sept 2003


Conference26th European Conference on Visual Preception

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in ECVP 2003 Abstract Supplement, Perception, (2003) 32 (Supplement), p.158-159, 0301-0066.


  • feature detection
  • human vision
  • computer vision
  • luminance-based
  • energy-based
  • luminance
  • luminance gradient
  • early vision
  • energy peaks


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