Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 624–629 | Cite as

Subjective randomness and natural scene statistics

  • Anne S. Hsu
  • Thomas L. Griffiths
  • Ethan Schreiber
Brief Reports


Accounts of subjective randomness suggest that people consider a stimulus random when they cannot detect any regularities characterizing the structure of that stimulus. We explored the possibility that the regularities people detect are shaped by the statistics of their natural environment. We did this by testing the hypothesis that people’s perception of randomness in two-dimensional binary arrays (images with two levels of intensity) is inversely related to the probability with which the array’s pattern would be encountered in nature. We estimated natural scene probabilities for small binary arrays by tabulating the frequencies with which each pattern of cell values appears. We then conducted an experiment in which we collected human randomness judgments. The results show an inverse relationship between people’s perceived randomness of an array pattern and the probability of the pattern appearing in nature.


Natural Image Natural Scene White Pixel Cognitive Science Society Binary Array 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne S. Hsu
    • 1
  • Thomas L. Griffiths
    • 2
  • Ethan Schreiber
    • 3
  1. 1.University College LondonLondonEngland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaLos Angeles

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