Visual saliency and texture segregation without feature gradient Academic Article uri icon


  • A central notion in the study of texture segregation is that of feature gradient (or feature contrast). In orientation-based texture segregation, orientation gradients have indeed played a fundamental role in explaining behavioral results. Here, however, we show that general, smoothly varying, orientation-defined textures (ODTs) exhibit striking perceptual singularities that are completely unpredictable from orientation gradients. These singularities defy not only popular texture segregation theories but also virtually all computational segmentation methods, and they confound previous behavioral studies with smoothly varying ODTs. We provide psychophysical evidence that perceptual singularities in smooth ODTs are salient visual features consistent across observers and with significant effect on the perception and segregation of oriented textures. We further show that, although orientation gradients cannot predict them, perceptual singularities in smooth ODTs emerge directly from, and can be spatially localized by, two ODT curvatures. Given the traditional role of feature gradients in early vision, the significance of these findings extends well beyond orientation-based texture segregation to issues ranging from curve integration and fragment grouping, through the perception of 3D shape, to the functional organization of the primary visual cortex.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006