Nice and slow: Measuring sensitivity and visual preference toward naturalistic stimuli varying in their amplitude spectra in space and time

Publication Name

Vision Research


The 1/f amplitude spectrum is a statistical property of natural scenes characterising a specific distribution of spatial and temporal frequencies and their associated luminance intensities. This property has been studied extensively in the spatial domain whereby sensitivity and visual preference overlap and peak for slopes within the natural range (α ≈ 1), but remains relatively less studied in the temporal domain. Here, we used a 4AFC task to measure sensitivity and a 2AFC task to measure visual preference and across a wide range of spatial (α = 0.25, 1.25, 2.25) and temporal (α = 0.25 to 2.50, step size: 0.25) slope conditions. Stimuli with a shallow temporal slope modulate rapidly (e.g. 0.25), whereas stimuli with a steep slope modulate slowly (e.g. 2.25). Interestingly, sensitivity and visual preference did not closely overlap. While the sensitivity of the visual system is highest for our stimulus with an intermediate modulation rate (1.25), which is most abundant in nature, the stimulus with the slowest modulation rate (2.25) was most preferred. It seems sensible for the visual system to be sensitive to spatiotemporal spectra that most commonly exist in nature (α ≈ 1). However, it is possible that preference might be related to what these properties signal in the natural world. Consider the cases of waves slowly vs. rapidly crashing on a beach or fast vs. slow animals. In both instances the slowest option is often the safest and preferential, suggesting that the temporal 1/f amplitude spectrum provides additional information that may indicate preferred environmental conditions. α α

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Australian Research Council



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