We investigate the ability of humans to perceive changes in the appearance of images of surface texture caused by the variation of their higher order statistics. We incrementally randomize their phase spectra while holding their first and second order statistics constant in order to ensure that the change in the appearance is due solely to changes in third and other higher order statistics. Stimuli comprise both natural and synthetically generated naturalistic images, with the latter being used to prevent observers from making pixel-wise comparisons. A difference scaling method is used to derive the perceptual scales for each observer, which show a sigmoidal relationship with the degree of randomization. Observers were maximally sensitive to changes within the 20%-60% randomization range. In order to account for this behavior we propose a biologically plausible model that computes the variance of local measurements of phase congruency. © 2010 Optical Society of America.