What does second-order vision see in an image

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The human visual system is sensitive to both first-order variations in luminance and second-order variations in local contrast and texture. Although there is some debate about the nature of second-order vision and its relationship to first-order processing, there is now a body of results showing that they are processed separately. However, the amount, and nature, of second-order structure present in the natural environment is unclear. This is an important question because, if natural scenes contain little second-order structure in addition to first-order signals, the notion of a separate second-order system would lack ecological validity.

Two models of second-order vision were applied to a number of well-calibrated natural images. Both models consisted of a first stage of oriented spatial filters followed by a rectifying nonlinearity and then a second set of filters. The models differed in terms of the connectivity between first-stage and second-stage filters. Output images taken from the models indicate that natural images do contain useful second-order structure. Specifically, the models reveal variations in texture and features defined by such variations. Areas of high contrast (but not necessarily high luminance) are also highlighted by the models. Second-order structure—as revealed by the models—did not correlate with the first-order profile of the images, suggesting that the two types of image ‘content’ may be statistically independent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1086
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2000


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