The transducer model for contrast detection and discrimination: formal relations, implications, and an empirical test.

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The transducer function mu for contrast perception describes the nonlinear mapping of stimulus contrast onto an internal response. Under a signal detection theory approach, the transducer model of contrast perception states that the internal response elicited by a stimulus of contrast c is a random variable with mean mu(c). Using this approach, we derive the formal relations between the transducer function, the threshold-versus-contrast (TvC) function, and the psychometric functions for contrast detection and discrimination in 2AFC tasks. We show that the mathematical form of the TvC function is determined only by mu, and that the psychometric functions for detection and discrimination have a common mathematical form with common parameters emanating from, and only from, the transducer function mu and the form of the distribution of the internal responses. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these relations, which have bearings on the tenability of certain mathematical forms for the psychometric function and on the suitability of empirical approaches to model validation. We also present the results of a comprehensive test of these relations using two alternative forms of the transducer model: a three-parameter version that renders logistic psychometric functions and a five-parameter version using Foley's variant of the Naka-Rushton equation as transducer function. Our results support the validity of the formal relations implied by the general transducer model, and the two versions that were contrasted account for our data equally well.
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