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Structural Description of Visual Form

Peter A. van der Helm

This course presents an information-theoretic perspective on visual form perception. The first lecture provides a general introduction to research on visual form, and a motivated positioning of the information-theoretic perspective in this field of research. The second and fourth lectures are theory-oriented, with an emphasis on theoretical foundations of modeling principles such as pattern encoding and the information-theoretic notion of simplicity. The third and fifth lectures are model-oriented, with an emphasis on the development and application of structural models of pattern completion and regularity detection.

1. Visual Form Perception
The problems of ambiguity, viewpoint-dependence, and veridicality
Goal, method, and means of visual information processing
Data-driven versus knowledge-driven perception
Hypothesis-testing models versus feature-integration models

Required Readings

Palmer, S. E. (1999). Theoretical approaches to vision. In S. E. Palmer, Vision Science: Photons to Phenomenology (Chapter 2, pp. 45—92). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Optional Readings

Kanizsa, G. (1985). Seeing and thinking. Acta Psychologica, 59 , 23—33.

2. Structural Approaches
Structural classification and pattern encoding
Measuring code complexity
Emergent versus pre-set primitives
Regularity and hierarchy as determinants of structure

Required Readings

Leeuwenberg, E. L. J., & van der Helm, P. A. (1991). Unity and variety in visual form. Perception, 20, 595—622.

Optional Readings

Biederman, I. (1987). Recognition-by-components: A theory of human image understanding. Psychological Review, 94, 115—147.

3. The Role of Viewpoint in Visual Occlusion
Nonaccidental properties and the General Viewpoint assumption
Modeling visual pattern completion: shape + position

Required Readings

van Lier, R. J., van der Helm, P. A., & Leeuwenberg, E. L. J. (1994). Integrating global and local aspects of visual occlusion. Perception, 23, 883—903.

Optional Readings

Tarr, M. J., & Buelthoff, H. H. (1998). Image-based object recognition in man, monkey and machine. In M. J. Tarr & H. H. Buelthoff (Eds.), Object recognition in man, monkey, and machine (pp. 1—20). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

4. Simplicity Versus Likelihood
Classical, algorithmic, and structural information theory: The relation between probability and information.
The veridicality of simplicity: Occam versus Bayes

Required Readings

van der Helm, P. A. (2000). Simplicity versus likelihood in visual perception: From surprisals to precisals. Psychological Bulletin, 126 , 770—800.

Optional Readings

Pomerantz, J., & Kubovy, M. (1986). Theoretical approaches to perceptual organization: Simplicity and likelihood principles. In K. R. Boff, L. Kaufman, & J. P. Thomas (Eds.), Handbook of perception and human performance: Vol. 2. Cognitive processes and performance (pp. 36-1-36—46). New York: Wiley.

5. Symmetry Perception
The internal structure of visual regularities
Weight of evidence as measure of detectability
Regularity detection: symmetry effects, number effects, salience effects

Required Readings

van der Helm, P. A., & Leeuwenberg, E. L. J. (1996). Goodness of visual regularities: A nontransformational approach. Psychological Review, 103 , 429—456.

Optional Readings

Wagemans, J. (1999). Toward a better approach to goodness: Comments on van der Helm and Leeuwenberg (1996). Psychological Review, 106 , 610—621.
van der Helm, P. A., & Leeuwenberg, E. L. J. (1999). A better approach to goodness: Reply to Wagemans (1999). Psychological Review, 106 , 622—630.

Small groups
Elaboration and discussion on paradigmatic controversies in visual form research:
1. Human versus machine vision
2. Perception versus recognition
3. Perceptual versus cognitive pattern completion
4. General-purpose versus special-purpose vision
5. Evolutionary perspectives

I propose that students who desire credits write a 10 page paper describing how the information-theoretic ideas are relevant to their interests.

Peter van der Helm
Peter A. van der Helm received his Masters in Applied Mathematics from the University of Twente (The Netherlands), and his PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands). In 1983, he joined the Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information (NICI) at the University of Nijmegen, where he is now Associate Professor of Perception in the Department of Psychology. In close cooperation with Emanuel Leeuwenberg, who initiated the Structural Information Theory (SIT) on visual form, Van der Helm developed the so-called Holographic Approach which provides not only a formal-theoretic foundation of SIT but also a new paradigm for empirical research on the detectability of visual regularities. He published his work in various papers in Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Psychological Review, and Psychological Bulletin.

International Summer School Cognitive Science, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria (2002)