Scene content selected by active vision

Derrick J. Parkhurst, Ernst Niebur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


The primate visual system actively selects visual information from the environment for detailed processing through mechanisms of visual attention and saccadic eye movements. This study examines the statistical properties of the scene content selected by active vision. Eye movements were recorded while participants free-viewed digitized images of natural and artificial scenes. Fixation locations were determined for each image and image patches were extracted around the observed fixation locations. Measures of local contrast, local spatial correlation and spatial frequency content were calculated on the extracted image patches. Replicating previous results, local contrast was found to be greater at the points of fixation when compared to either the contrast for image patches extracted at random locations or at the observed fixation locations using an image-shuffled database. Contrary to some results and in agreement with other results in the literature, a significant decorrelation of image intensity is observed between the locations of fixation and other neighboring locations. A discussion and analysis of methodological techniques is given that provides an explanation for the discrepancy in results. The results of our analyses indicate that both the local contrast and correlation at the points of fixation are a function of image type and, furthermore, that the magnitude of these effects depend on the levels of contrast and correlation present overall in the images. Finally, the largest effect sizes in local contrast and correlation are found at distances of approximately 1 deg of visual angle, which agrees well with measures of optimal spatial scale selectivity in the visual periphery where visual information for potential saccade targets is processed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-154
Number of pages30
JournalSpatial Vision
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003


  • Eye movements
  • Image statistics
  • Natural scenes
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


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