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Visual signal detection. IV. Observer inconsistency

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Abstract

Historically, human signal-detection responses have been assumed to be governed by external determinants (nature of the signal, the noise, and the task) and internal determinants. Variability in the internal determinants is commonly attributed to internal noise (often vaguely defined). We present a variety of experimental results that demonstrate observer inconsistency in performing noise-limited visual detection and discrimination tasks with repeated presentation of images. Our results can be interpreted by using a model that includes an internal-noise component that is directly proportional to image noise. This so-called induced internal-noise component dominates when external noise is easily visible. We demonstrate that decision-variable fluctuations lead to this type of internal noise. Given this induced internal-noise proportionality (σi0 = 0.75 ± 0.1), the upper limit to human visual signal-detection efficiency is 64% ± 6%. This limit is consistent with a variety of results presented in earlier papers in this series [ A. E. Burgess and H. Ghandeharian, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 1, 900, 906 ( 1984); A. Burgess, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 2, 1498 ( 1985)].

© 1988 Optical Society of America

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