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The pedestal effect with a pulse train and its constituent sinusoids


Wichmann,  FA
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Henning, G., Wichmann, F., & Bird, C. (2001). The pedestal effect with a pulse train and its constituent sinusoids.

Curves showing "threshold" contrast for detecting a signal grating as a function of the contrast of a masking grating of the same orientation, spatial frequency, and phase show a characteristic improvement in performance at masker contrasts near the contrast threshold of the unmasked signal. Depending on the percentage of correct responses used to define the threshold, the best performance can be as much as a factor of three better than the unmasked threshold obtained in the absence of any masking grating. The result is called the pedestal effect (sometimes, the dipper function). We used a 2AFC procedure to measure the effect with harmonically related sinusoids ranging from 2 to 16 c/deg - all with maskers of the same orientation, spatial frequency and phase - and with masker contrasts ranging from 0 to 50. The curves for different spatial frequencies are identical if both the vertical axis (showing the threshold signal contrast) and the horizontal axis (showing the masker contrast) are scaled by the threshold contrast of the signal obtained with no masker. Further, a pulse train with a fundamental frequency of 2 c/deg produces a curve that is indistinguishable from that of a 2-c/deg sinusoid despite the fact that at higher masker contrasts, the pulse train contains at least 8 components all of them equally detectable. The effect of adding 1-D spatial noise is also discussed.