Measuring uncertainty in human visual segmentation 

with C. Launay, P. Mamassian and R. Coen-Cagli.

Published Version

    (i) We introduce the first experimental method to measure perceptual segmentation on arbitrary images. (ii) We capture individual-level variability and relate it to perceptual uncertainty, which is necessary to understand human perception. (iii) We offer computational tools to fit any segmentation algorithm to the data, which will enable new benchmarks for computer vision algorithms, and testing computational theories of perceptual segmentation.

    1. Vacher, J., Launay, C., Mamassian, P. & Coen-Cagli, R. Measuring uncertainty in human visual segmentation. PLOS Computational Biology 19, 1–24 (2023).


    Segmenting visual stimuli into distinct groups of features and visual objects is central to visual function. Classical psychophysical methods have helped uncover many rules of human perceptual segmentation, and recent progress in machine learning has produced successful algorithms. Yet, the computational logic of human segmentation remains unclear, partially because we lack well-controlled paradigms to measure perceptual segmentation maps and compare models quantitatively. Here we propose a new, integrated approach: given an image, we measure multiple pixel-based same–different judgments and perform model–based reconstruction of the underlying segmentation map. The reconstruction is robust to several experimental manipulations and captures the variability of individual participants. We demonstrate the validity of the approach on human segmentation of natural images and composite textures. We show that image uncertainty affects measured human variability, and it influences how participants weigh different visual features. Because any putative segmentation algorithm can be inserted to perform the reconstruction, our paradigm affords quantitative tests of theories of perception as well as new benchmarks for segmentation algorithms.

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