Binocular summation at contrast threshold: a new look

Mark A. Georgeson, Timothy S. Meese

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Contrast sensitivity is better with two eyes than one. The standard view is that thresholds are about 1.4 (v2) times better with two eyes, and that this arises from monocular responses that, near threshold, are proportional to the square of contrast, followed by binocular summation of the two monocular signals. However, estimates of the threshold ratio in the literature vary from about 1.2 to 1.9, and many early studies had methodological weaknesses. We collected extensive new data, and applied a general model of binocular summation to interpret the threshold ratio. We used horizontal gratings (0.25 - 4 cycles deg-1) flickering sinusoidally (1 - 16 Hz), presented to one or both eyes through frame-alternating ferroelectric goggles with negligible cross-talk, and used a 2AFC staircase method to estimate contrast thresholds and psychometric slopes. Four naive observers completed 20 000 trials each, and their mean threshold ratios were 1.63, 1.69, 1.71, 1.81 - grand mean 1.71 - well above the classical v2. Mean ratios tended to be slightly lower (~1.60) at low spatial or high temporal frequencies. We modelled contrast detection very simply by assuming a single binocular mechanism whose response is proportional to (Lm + Rm) p, followed by fixed additive noise, where L,R are contrasts in the left and right eyes, and m, p are constants. Contrast-gain-control effects were assumed to be negligible near threshold. On this model the threshold ratio is 2(?1/m), implying that m=1.3 on average, while the Weibull psychometric slope (median 3.28) equals 1.247mp, yielding p=2.0. Together, the model and data suggest that, at low contrasts across a wide spatiotemporal frequency range, monocular pathways are nearly linear in their contrast response (m close to 1), while a strongly accelerating nonlinearity (p=2, a 'soft threshold') occurs after binocular summation. [Supported by EPSRC project grant GR/S74515/01]
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventTwenty-eighth European Conference on Visual Perception - A Corunña, Spain
Duration: 22 Aug 200526 Aug 2005


ConferenceTwenty-eighth European Conference on Visual Perception
CityA Corunña

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in ECVP 2005 Abstract Supplement, Perception, (2005) 34 (Supplement), p.138, 0001-4966.


  • contrast sensitivity
  • eyes
  • standard view
  • monocular responses
  • binocular summation
  • monocular signals
  • non-linearity


Dive into the research topics of 'Binocular summation at contrast threshold: a new look'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this