Effects of pixel noise and stimulus structure on visual detection performance
This thesis consisted of two major parts, one determining the masking characteristics of pixel noise and the other investigating the properties of the detection filter employed by the visual system. The theoretical cut-off frequency of white pixel noise can be defined from the size of the noise pixel. The empirical cut-off frequency, i.e. the largest size of noise pixels that mimics the effect of white noise in detection, was determined by measuring contrast energy thresholds for grating stimuli in the presence of spatial noise consisting of noise pixels of various sizes and shapes. The critical i.e. minimum number of noise pixels per grating cycle needed to mimic the effect of white noise in detection was found to decrease with the bandwidth of the stimulus. The shape of the noise pixels did not have any effect on the whiteness of pixel noise as long as there was at least the minimum number of noise pixels in all spatial dimensions. Furthermore, the masking power of white pixel noise is best described when the spectral density is calculated by taking into account all the dimensions of noise pixels, i.e. width, height, and duration, even when there is random luminance only in one of these dimensions. The properties of the detection mechanism employed by the visual system were studied by measuring contrast energy thresholds for complex spatial patterns as a function of area in the presence of white pixel noise. Human detection efficiency was obtained by comparing human performance with an ideal detector. The stimuli consisted of band-pass filtered symbols, uniform and patched gratings, and point stimuli with randomised phase spectra. In agreement with the existing literature, the detection performance was found to decline with the increasing amount of detail and contour in the stimulus. A measure of image complexity was developed and successfully applied to the data. The accuracy of the detection mechanism seems to depend on the spatial structure of the stimulus and the spatial spread of contrast energy.