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Optotype recognition under degradation: comparison of size, contrast, blur, noise and contour‐perturbation effects

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Visual acuity is measured by diminishing letter size till recognition threshold is reached, letters varying in legibility. In this experiment, size reduction was compared with other means of handicapping letter legibility.


In five normal observers, discrimination thresholds for 13 sans-serif capital letters in a 5 × 4 format were obtained by a staircase procedure for size reduction, as well as for 20 minutes of arc (logMAR = 0.6) letters subjected to four kinds of image degradation: reducing contrast, convolving with blurring spread, embedding in noise and perturbing contour smoothness.


Threshold correlation and distribution of response errors show prominent differences and indicate the degree to which the visual processing of the various modes of image degradation is distinct.


The validation of four other ways of impairing the recognition of optotypes in addition to size diminution reveals their potential in the differential diagnosis of defects in pattern detection, in evaluating therapeutic regimens and in developing concepts of form perception.

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