1. Neuroscience
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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 11
  • Views 1,033
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Cite this article 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 "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 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, 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)
  4. Version of Record published: March 9, 2018 (version 2)

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.

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