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Binocular contrast discrimination needs monocular multiplicative noise.

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The effects of signal and noise on contrast discrimination are difficult to separate because of a singularity in the signal-detection-theory model of two-alternative forced-choice contrast discrimination (Katkov, Tsodyks, & Sagi, 2006). In this article, we show that it is possible to eliminate the singularity by combining that model with a binocular combination model to fit monocular, dichoptic, and binocular contrast discrimination. We performed three experiments using identical stimuli to measure the perceived phase, perceived contrast, and contrast discrimination of a cyclopean sine wave. In the absence of a fixation point, we found a binocular advantage in contrast discrimination both at low contrasts (<4%), consistent with previous studies, and at high contrasts (≥34%), which has not been previously reported. However, control experiments showed no binocular advantage at high contrasts in the presence of a fixation point or for observers without accommodation. We evaluated two putative contrast-discrimination mechanisms: a nonlinear contrast transducer and multiplicative noise (MN). A binocular combination model (the DSKL model; Ding, Klein, & Levi, 2013b) was first fitted to both the perceived-phase and the perceived-contrast data sets, then combined with either the nonlinear contrast transducer or the MN mechanism to fit the contrast-discrimination data. We found that the best model combined the DSKL model with early MN. Model simulations showed that, after going through interocular suppression, the uncorrelated noise in the two eyes became anticorrelated, resulting in less binocular noise and therefore a binocular advantage in the discrimination task. Combining a nonlinear contrast transducer or MN with a binocular combination model (DSKL) provides a powerful method for evaluating the two putative contrast-discrimination mechanisms.

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