Visual texture, defined by local image statistics, provides important information to the human visual system for perceptual segmentation. Second-order or spectral statistics (equivalent to the Fourier power spectrum) are a well-studied segmentation cue. However, the role of higher-order statistics (HOS) in segmentation remains unclear, particularly for natural images. Recent experiments indicate that, in peripheral vision, the HOS of the widely adopted Portilla-Simoncelli texture model are a weak segmentation cue compared to spectral statistics, despite the fact that both are necessary to explain other perceptual phenomena and to support high-quality texture synthesis. Here we test whether this discrepancy reflects a property of natural image statistics. First, we observe that differences in spectral statistics across segments of natural images are redundant with differences in HOS. Second, using linear and nonlinear classifiers, we show that each set of statistics individually affords high performance in natural scenes and texture segmentation tasks, but combining spectral statistics and HOS produces relatively small improvements. Third, we find that HOS improve segmentation for a subset of images, although these images are difficult to identify. We also find that different subsets of HOS improve segmentation to a different extent, in agreement with previous physiological and perceptual work. These results show that the HOS add modestly to spectral statistics for natural image segmentation. We speculate that tuning to natural image statistics under resource constraints could explain the weak contribution of HOS to perceptual segmentation in human peripheral vision.
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