AVA Awards Recipients Report - Ahamed Miflah Hussain Ismail - 2017

Geoffrey J. Burton Memorial Award

I received the Geoffrey J. Burton Memorial Award to attend the European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP, 2017) which was held at Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany. This gave me the opportunity to present my poster entitled ‘A bias for anisotropy in image classification’ in one of the largest ECVPs held to date. Co-authored by Prof Joshua Solomon, Dr Miles Hansard and Dr Isabelle Mareschal, the poster reported novel findings on perceptual biases during natural image classification. Many previous studies had demonstrated how our perceptual judgements of simplified stimuli like Gabor patches or most commonly used natural image stimuli like faces are biased towards what we are frequently exposed to, when we look at a stimulus with high uncertainty. Our findings were the first to show a bias in classification of everyday natural images other than faces (e.g., animals, flowers, house and vehicles). We found that when people classify ambiguous hybrid images created by superimposing man-made and non-man-made images of equal low-level perceptual visibility, they are biased to classify these hybrids as man-made. People’s biases were strongly correlated with the level of orientation anisotropy in the image categories; the stronger the prevalence of vertical and horizontal orientations relative to oblique orientations in an image category, the larger the bias for it. This man-made bias is possibly a result of our long-term exposure to man-made environments.      

ECVP 2017 was well organized with smoothly paced, interesting talks and poster sessions from a broad range of topics in vision science that interested me, such as natural image perception, face perception, active vision and Bayesian perception. The debate between Merav Ahissar and Brian Scholl addressing ‘if cognition penetrates perception?’ was thoroughly entertaining. I believe other conferences should also hold atypical events of this format as they facilitate researchers to learn a deeper yet quick summary of two different views in addressing the same question in vision science. Although it wasn’t my first time presenting at a conference, I knew I had to improve my presenting skills to explain it to a wider audience from different parts of the world, coming from different backgrounds. To my understanding it turned out well, considering that I was kept engaged throughout my session with a very interactive audience. Despite the robust nature of the findings I presented, it was open to a few alternative interpretations and I found it very useful to receive some constructive feedback from experts investigating similar aspects of vision, especially from those whose work I closely follow.

It was the ideal time for me to attend a conference and learn about the novel and interesting work going-on at different labs around the world, as I was nearing the finish line of my PhD and was exploring possible post-doctoral opportunities. I managed to attend almost all sessions of which was a five-day long conference and I would say that reflects how interesting this conference was. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Applied Vision Association for awarding me this travel grant in an ideal time of need for funding. It was undoubtedly helpful and allowed me to have a wonderful time at ECVP.