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Christopher Shooner, Kathy T. Mullen; Linking perceived to physical contrast: Comparing results from discrimination and difference-scaling experiments. Journal of Vision 2022;22(1):13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.22.1.13.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Psychophysical approaches that allow us to estimate how perceived stimulus intensity is linked to physical intensity are import tools for studying nonlinear transformations of visual signals within different visual pathways. Here, we investigated how stimulus contrast is encoded in achromatic and chromatic pathways using simple grating stimuli. We compared two experimental approaches to this question: contrast discrimination (increment detection thresholds measured on contrast pedestals) and the maximum likelihood difference scaling (MLDS) approach introduced by Maloney and Yang (2003). The results of both experiments are expressed using simple models that include a transducer function mapping physical contrast to an internal signal the observer uses in making judgments, and an estimate of the variability of this representation (internal “noise”). We found that the transducers derived from both experiments have a similar form, but occupy different ranges of physical contrast in different stimulus conditions, reflecting difference in contrast sensitivity. This is consistent with past discrimination results, and in the difference-scaling case provides new evidence supporting the idea that suprathreshold chromatic and achromatic contrast are processed similarly, once differences in contrast sensitivity are taken into account. Model estimates of internal noise were higher in the difference-scaling experiment than the discrimination experiment, a finding we attribute to a difference in task complexity. Finally, we fit an alternative version of the MLDS model in which internal noise increased with response level. This alternative was no better at predicting holdout data in a cross-validation analysis than the original constant-variance model.
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