The human visual system and CNNs can both support robust online translation tolerance following extreme displacements

Ryan Blything, Valerio Biscione, Ivan Vankov, Casimir J H Ludwig, Jeffrey S Bowers

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Visual translation tolerance refers to our capacity to recognize objects over a wide range of different retinal locations. Although translation is perhaps the simplest spatial transform that the visual system needs to cope with, the extent to which the human visual system can identify objects at previously unseen locations is unclear, with some studies reporting near complete invariance over 10° and other reporting zero invariance at 4° of visual angle. Similarly, there is confusion regarding the extent of translation tolerance in computational
models of vision, as well as the degree of match between human and model performance. Here we report a series of eye-tracking studies (total N=70) demonstrating that novel objects trained at one retinal location can be recognized at high accuracy rates following translations up to 18°. We also show that standard deep convolutional networks (DCNNs) support our findings when pretrained to classify another set of stimuli across a range of locations, or
when a Global Average Pooling (GAP) layer is added to produce larger receptive fields. Our findings provide a strong constraint for theories of human vision and help explain inconsistent findings previously reported with CNNs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 741134).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. All rights reserved.


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  • M and M

    Bowers, J. S.


    Project: Research, Parent

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