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J Vis. 2009 Feb 9;9(2):9.1-15. doi: 10.1167/9.2.9.

Accuracy-precision trade-off in visual orientation constancy.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Using the subjective visual vertical task (SVV), previous investigations on the maintenance of visual orientation constancy during lateral tilt have found two opposite bias effects in different tilt ranges. The SVV typically shows accurate performance near upright but severe undercompensation at tilts beyond 60 deg (A-effect), frequently with slight overcompensation responses (E-effect) in between. Here we investigate whether a Bayesian spatial-perception model can account for this error pattern. The model interprets A- and E-effects as the drawback of a computational strategy, geared at maintaining visual stability with optimal precision at small tilt angles. In this study, we test whether these systematic errors can be seen as the consequence of a precision-accuracy trade-off when combining a veridical but noisy signal about eye orientation in space with the visual signal. To do so, we used a psychometric approach to assess both precision and accuracy of the SVV in eight subjects laterally tilted at 9 different tilt angles (-120 degrees to 120 degrees). Results show that SVV accuracy and precision worsened with tilt angle, according to a pattern that could be fitted quite adequately by the Bayesian model. We conclude that spatial vision essentially follows the rules of Bayes' optimal observer theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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