Scene Perception

Abstract
Scene Perception is the visual perception of an environment as viewed by an observer at any given time. It includes not only the perception of individual objects, but also such things as their relative locations, and expectations about what other kinds of objects might be encountered. Given that scene perception is so effortless for most observers, it might be thought of as something easy to understand. However, the amount of effort required by a process often bears little relation to its underlying complexity. A closer look shows that scene perception is a highly complex activity, and that any account of it must deal with several difficult issues: What exactly is a scene? What aspects of it do we represent? And what are the processes involved? Finding the answers to these questions has proven to be extraordinarily difficult. However, answers are being found, and a general understanding of scene perception is beginning to emerge. Interestingly, this emerging picture shows that much of our subjective experience as observers is highly misleading, at least in regards to the way that scene perception is carried out. In particular, the impression of a stable picture-like representation somewhere in our heads turns out to be largely an illusion. To see how this comes about, imagine a seashore where there is a sailboat, some rocks, some clouds, and perhaps a few other objects (see Figure 1). How do we perceive this scene? Intuitively, it seems that the set of objects in the environment would give rise to a corresponding set of representations in the observer. Thus, there would be detailed representations of the sailboat, clouds, etc., with each representation describing the identity, location, and 'meaning' of the item it refers to. In this view, the goal of scene perception is to form a literal re-presentation of the world, with all of its visible structure represented concurrently and in great detail everywhere. This representation then serves as the basis for all subsequent visual processing..
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