Categorization of Natural Scenes: Local Versus Global Information and the Role of Color

Julia Vogel, Adrian Schwaninger, Christian Wallraven, Heinrich Bulthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Categorization of scenes is a fundamental process of human vision that allows us to efficiently and rapidly analyze our surroundings. Several studies have explored the processes underlying human scene categorization, but they have focused on processing global image information. In this study, we present both psychophysical and computational experiments that investigate the role of local versus global image information in scene categorization. In a first set of human experiments, categorization performance is tested when only local or only global image information is present. Our results suggest that humans rely on local, region-based information as much as on global, configural information. In addition, humans seem to integrate both types of information for intact scene categorization. In a set of computational experiments, human performance is compared to two state-of-the-art computer vision approaches that have been shown to be psychophysically plausible and that model either local or global information. In addition to the influence of local versus global information, in a second series of experiments, we investigated the effect of color on the categorization performance of both the human observers and the computational model. Analysis of the human data suggests that color is an additional channel of perceptual information that leads to higher categorization results at the expense of increased reaction times in the intact condition. However, it does not affect reaction times when only local information is present. When color is removed, the employed computational model follows the relative performance decrease of human observers for each scene category and can thus be seen as a perceptually plausible model for human scene categorization based on local image information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19
Number of pages1
JournalACM Transactions on Applied Perception
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Algorithms
  • computational modeling
  • computationalgist
  • global configural information
  • Human perception
  • local region-based information
  • scene classification
  • Scene perception
  • semantic modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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