Edge coding in human vision: a psychophysical and computational investigation

  • Keith A. May

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis presents a study of how edges are detected and encoded by the human visual system. The study begins with theoretical work on the development of a model of edge processing, and includes psychophysical experiments on humans, and computer simulations of these experiments, using the model. The first chapter reviews the literature on edge processing in biological and machine vision, and introduces the mathematical foundations of this area of research. The second chapter gives a formal presentation of a model of edge perception that detects edges and characterizes their blur, contrast and orientation, using Gaussian derivative templates. This model has previously been shown to accurately predict human performance in blur matching tasks with several different types of edge profile. The model provides veridical estimates of the blur and contrast of edges that have a Gaussian integral profile. Since blur and contrast are independent parameters of Gaussian edges, the model predicts that varying one parameter should not affect perception of the other. Psychophysical experiments showed that this prediction is incorrect: reducing the contrast makes an edge look sharper; increasing the blur reduces the perceived contrast. Both of these effects can be explained by introducing a smoothed threshold to one of the processing stages of the model. It is shown that, with this modification,the model can predict the perceived contrast and blur of a number of edge profiles that differ markedly from the ideal Gaussian edge profiles on which the templates are based. With only a few exceptions, the results from all the experiments on blur and contrast perception can be explained reasonably well using one set of parameters for each subject. In the few cases where the model fails, possible extensions to the model are discussed.
Date of AwardDec 2003
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark A Georgeson (Supervisor)


  • blur
  • contrast
  • derivative
  • scale-space
  • template

Cite this