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With isolated binocular targets, the best depth discrimination is found in the fixation plane (Blakemore, C., Journal of Physiology 211 (1970) 599). More recent studies have suggested that stereoscopic thresholds are not always a simple function of absolute disparity, but depend on the relative disparities in the stimulus. Here, we explored the effects of relative disparity in more detail, taking particular care to control for the possibility that subjects might change their binocular eye position or exploit monocular information provided by additional reference cues. Subjects judged the depth of a vertical target line presented above a comparison line in a blank window within a fronto-parallel reference surface composed of randomly positioned dots. On individual trials, the reference surface was presented at one of three disparities (-10, 0 and +10 arc min). To control for changes in binocular eye position, exposure duration was 150 ms, and experimental conditions with different disparities of the reference surface and comparison line were randomly interleaved. To control for monocular cues, changes in threshold were determined with respect to a disparity noise condition that was in all ways identical to the reference plane condition, except that the disparities of the dots were randomly assigned between 10 and +10 arc min. Stereo-thresholds were lowered by a factor of about 2 when the surface was at the same depth as the comparison line. Thresholds were also lowered when the comparison disparity was close to the same depth as the reference surface, but were often raised when the comparison disparity had the opposite disparity sign. These results provide unequivocal evidence that the fundamental sensitivity of the disparity detecting system can be influenced by relative disparity cues that are not related to the task.


Journal article


Vision Res

Publication Date





3051 - 3061


Confidence Intervals, Depth Perception, Humans, Likelihood Functions, Normal Distribution, Psychometrics, Sensory Thresholds, Vision Disparity, Visual Acuity