Effects of luminance contrast and its modifications on fixation behavior during free viewing of images from different categories

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Abstract

During viewing of natural scenes, do low-level features guide attention, and if so, does this depend on higher-level features? To answer these questions, we studied the image category dependence of low-level feature modification effects. Subjects fixated contrast-modified regions often in natural scene images, while smaller but significant effects were observed for urban scenes and faces. Surprisingly, modifications in fractal images did not influence fixations. Further analysis revealed an inverse relationship between modification effects and higher-level, phase-dependent image features. We suggest that high- and mid-level features – such as edges, symmetries, and recursive patterns – guide attention if present. However, if the scene lacks such diagnostic properties, low-level features prevail. We posit a hierarchical framework, which combines aspects of bottom-up and top-down theories and is compatible with our data.

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