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A Nonparametric Approach to Bottom-Up Visual Saliency

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3 Author(s)

This paper addresses the bottom-up influence of local image information on human eye movements. Most existing computational models use a set of biologically plausible linear filters, e.g., Gabor or Difference-of-Gaussians filters as a front-end, the outputs of which are nonlinearly combined into a real number that indicates visual saliency. Unfortunately, this requires many design parameters such as the number, type, and size of the front-end filters, as well as the choice of nonlinearities, weighting and normalization schemes etc., for which biological plausibility cannot always be justified. As a result, these parameters have to be chosen in a more or less ad hoc way. Here, we propose to learn a visual saliency model directly from human eye movement data. The model is rather simplistic and essentially parameter-free, and therefore contrasts recent developments in the field that usually aim at higher prediction rates at the cost of additional parameters and increasing model complexity. Experimental results show that—despite the lack of any biological prior knowledge—our model performs comparably to existing approaches, and in fact learns image features that resemble findings from several previous studies. In particular, its maximally excitatory stimuli have center-surround structure, similar to receptive fields in the early human visual system.