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Flicker perception was investigated using two-alternative forced-choice detection and discrimination tasks with four different types of external noise: (1) broadband noise, (2) 5-Hz notched-noise--broadband noise with a 5-Hz band centered on the signal frequency removed, (3) 10-Hz notched-noise, and (4) no external noise. The signal was a burst of 10-Hz sinusoidal flicker presented in one of two observation intervals. In discrimination experiments, a pedestal--sinusoidal flicker with the same frequency, duration, and phase as the signal--was added to both observation intervals. With no noise, observers' performance first improved with increasing pedestal modulation, before deteriorating in accordance with Weber's Law, producing the typical "dipper" shaped plot of signal versus pedestal modulation. Noise affects performance, but the dipper effect persisted in each type of noise. The results exclude three models: the ideal-observer in which the pedestal improves performance by specifying the signal exactly; off-frequency-looking models in which the dipper depends on detection by channels tuned to temporal frequencies different from that of the signal; and strict energy detectors. Our data are consistent with signal processing by a single mechanism with an expansive non-linearity for near-threshold signal modulations (with an exponent of six) and a compressive "Weberian" non-linearity for high modulations.

Original publication




Journal article


J Vis

Publication Date





21.1 - 2118


Contrast Sensitivity, Discrimination (Psychology), Flicker Fusion, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Perceptual Masking, Photic Stimulation, Visual Perception