Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)
Vidhya Navalpakkam, Laurent Itti
Survival in the natural world demands the selection of relevant visual cues to rapidly and reliably guide attention towards prey an d predators in cluttered environments. We investigate whether our visu al system selects cues that guide search in an optimal manner. We formall y obtain the optimal cue selection strategy by maximizing the signal to noise ratio (S N R) between a search target and surrounding distractors. This optimal strategy successfully accounts for several phenom ena in visual search behavior, including the effect of target-distracto r discriminability, uncertainty in target's features, distractor heterogenei ty, and linear separability. Furthermore, the theory generates a new predict ion, which we verify through psychophysical experiments with human subj ects. Our results provide direct experimental evidence that humans sel ect visual cues so as to maximize S N R between the targets and surrounding clutter.