Discriminating depth in stereo surfaces: dipper effect found, and lost

Mark A. Georgeson, Timothy A. Yates, Andrew J. Schofield

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


Measurement of detection and discrimination thresholds yields information about visual signal processing. For luminance contrast, we are 2 - 3 times more sensitive to a small increase in the contrast of a weak 'pedestal' grating, than when the pedestal is absent. This is the 'dipper effect' - a reliable improvement whose interpretation remains controversial. Analogies between luminance and depth (disparity) processing have attracted interest in the existence of a 'disparity dipper' - are thresholds for disparity, or disparity modulation (corrugated surfaces), facilitated by the presence of a weak pedestal? Lunn and Morgan (1997 Journal of the Optical Society of America A 14 360 - 371) found no dipper for disparity-modulated gratings, but technical limitations (8-bit greyscale) might have prevented the necessary measurement of very small disparity thresholds. We used a true 14-bit greyscale to render small disparities accurately, and measured 2AFC discrimination thresholds for disparity modulation (0.6 cycle deg-1) of a random texture at various pedestal levels. Which interval contained greater modulation of depth? In the first experiment, a clear dipper was found. Thresholds were about 2X1 lower with weak pedestals than without. But here the phase of modulation (0° or 180°) was randomised from trial to trial. In a noisy signal-detection framework, this creates uncertainty that is reduced by the pedestal, thus improving performance. When the uncertainty was eliminated by keeping phase constant within sessions, the dipper effect disappeared, confirming Lunn and Morgan's result. The absence of a dipper, coupled with shallow psychometric slopes, suggests that the visual response to small disparities is essentially linear, with no threshold-like nonlinearity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventApplied Vision Association Annual 2007 Meeting - Bradford , United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Apr 2007 → …


OtherApplied Vision Association Annual 2007 Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period20/04/07 → …

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in Applied Vision Association Annual 2007 Meeting "Active and Passive Vision" in Perception, 2007, 36(9), p.1401-1042, ISSN 0001-4966.


  • measurement
  • detection
  • discrimination
  • thresholds
  • visual signal processing
  • luminance contrast
  • luminance
  • depth processing
  • disparity
  • disparity modulation
  • dipper
  • response to small disparities


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