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Affordance Estimation Enhances Artificial Visual Attention: Evidence from a Change-Blindness Study


Visual attention models are typically based on the concept of saliency, a conspicuity measure which considers features such as color, intensity or orientation. Much current research aims at modeling top-down interactions, which highly influence human attentional behavior. Typically, these are in the form of targets to be searched for or general characteristics (gist) of a scene. In humans, it has been shown that objects that afford actions, for example, graspable objects, strongly attract attention. Here, we integrate an artificial attention framework with a measure of affordances estimated from a sparse 3D scene representation. This work contributes further evidence for human attention being biased toward objects of high affordance, which for the first time is measured in an objective way. Furthermore, it demonstrates that artificial attention systems benefit from affordance estimation for predicting human attention. For technical systems, considering affordances provides mid-level influences that are not too specific or too general, but can guide attention toward potential action targets with respect to a system’s physical capabilities. Finally, the change-detection task we employ for model comparison constitutes a new method to evaluate artificial systems with respect to early human vision in natural scene perception.

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  2. The affordance model suggested edges of shelves twice, which could not be removed without also removing all their contents or leaving the contained objects suspiciously floating; the saliency model also suggested such an element once by pointing to empty space on a table between objects.

  3. Note that some additional center bias is added due to an artifact: A vertical strip on the left in Fig. 6b shows no changes. This is because the left image of the stereo pair was used and no stereo correspondences (and thus no object representations and no estimated grasping possibilities) exist in the far left of the image.

  4. All t tests and ANOVAs reported in this paper assume an alpha level of 0.05 and were performed on the arcsine-transformed relative frequencies. Whenever differences are not significant, we additionally report the mean and standard deviation of the differences and 95 % confidence intervals around the mean difference.


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This work was partly supported by the EU Cognitive Systems project Xperience (FP7-ICT-270273).

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Correspondence to Jan Tünnermann.

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Tünnermann, J., Krüger, N., Mertsching, B. et al. Affordance Estimation Enhances Artificial Visual Attention: Evidence from a Change-Blindness Study. Cogn Comput 7, 526–538 (2015).

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