1. Neuroscience
Download icon

The lawful imprecision of human surface tilt estimation in natural scenes

  1. Seha Kim Is a corresponding author
  2. Johannes Burge Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Pennsylvania, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 0
  • Views 183
  • Annotations
Cite as: eLife 2018;7:e31448 doi: 10.7554/eLife.31448

Abstract

Estimating local surface orientation (slant and tilt) is fundamental to recovering the three-dimensional structure of the environment. It is unknown how well humans perform this task in natural scenes. Here, with a database of natural stereo-images having groundtruth surface orientation at each pixel, we find dramatic differences in human tilt estimation with natural and artificial stimuli. Estimates are precise and unbiased with artificial stimuli and imprecise and strongly biased with natural stimuli. An image-computable Bayes optimal model grounded in natural scene statistics predicts human bias, precision, and trial-by-trial errors without fitting parameters to the human data. The similarities between human and model performance suggest that the complex human performance patterns with natural stimuli are lawful, and that human visual systems have internalized local image and scene statistics to optimally infer the three-dimensional structure of the environment. These results generalize our understanding of vision from the lab to the real world.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Seha Kim

    Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    For correspondence
    sehakim@upenn.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0003-0356-6168
  2. Johannes Burge

    Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    For correspondence
    jburge@sas.upenn.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

National Institutes of Health (EY011747)

  • Johannes Burge

University of Pennsylvania (Startup Funds)

  • Johannes Burge

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: Informed consent was obtained from participants before the experiment. The research protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Pennsylvania (IRB approval protocol number: 824435) and is in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Jack L Gallant, Reviewing Editor, University of California, Berkeley, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: August 25, 2017
  2. Accepted: January 29, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: January 31, 2018 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2018, Kim & Burge

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 183
    Page views
  • 26
    Downloads
  • 0
    Citations

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading