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How low can you go? Detecting style in extremely low resolution images

Searston, R.A., Thompson, M.B., Vokey, J.R., French, L.A. and Tangen, J.M. (2019) How low can you go? Detecting style in extremely low resolution images. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45 (5). pp. 573-584.

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Humans can see through the complexity of scenes, faces, and objects by quickly extracting their redundant low-spatial and low-dimensional global properties, or their style. It remains unclear, however, whether semantic coding is necessary, or whether visual stylistic information is sufficient, for people to recognize and discriminate complex images and categories. In two experiments, we systematically reduce the resolution of hundreds of unique paintings, birds, and faces, and test people's ability to discriminate and recognize them. We show that the stylistic information retained at extremely low image resolutions is sufficient for visual recognition of images and visual discrimination of categories. Averaging over the 3 domains, people were able to reliably recognize images reduced down to a single pixel, with large differences from chance discriminability across 8 different image resolutions. People were also able to discriminate categories substantially above chance with an image resolution as low as 2 × 2 pixels. We situate our findings in the context of contemporary computational accounts of visual recognition and contend that explicit encoding of the local features in the image, or knowledge of the semantic category, is not necessary for recognizing and distinguishing complex visual stimuli.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Copyright: © 2019 American Psychological Association
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