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Bayesian staircases are widely used in psychophysics to estimate detection thresholds. Simulations have revealed the importance of the parameters selected for the assumed subject's psychometric function in enabling thresholds to be estimated with small bias and high precision. One important parameter is the slope of the psychometric function, or equivalently its spread. This is often held fixed, rather than estimated for individual subjects, because much larger numbers of trials are required to estimate the spread as well as the threshold. However, if this fixed value is wrong, the threshold estimate can be biased. Here we determine the optimal slope to minimize bias and maximize precision when measuring stereoacuity with Bayesian staircases. We performed 2- and 4AFC disparity detection stereo experiments in order to measure the spread of the disparity psychometric function in human observers assuming a Logistic function. We found a wide range, between 0.03 and 3.5 log10 arcsec, with little change with age. We then ran simulations to examine the optimal spread using the empirical data. From our simulations and for three different experiments, we recommend selecting assumed spread values between the percentiles 60-80% of the population distribution of spreads (these percentiles can be extended to other type of thresholds). For stereo thresholds, we recommend a spread around the value σ = 1.7 log10 arcsec for 2AFC (slope β = 4.3 /log10 arcsec), and around σ = 1.5 log10 arcsec for 4AFC (β = 4.9 /log10 arcsec). Finally, we compared a Bayesian procedure (ZEST using the optimal σ) with five Bayesian procedures that are versions of ZEST-2D, Psi, and Psi-marginal. In general, for the conditions tested, ZEST optimal σ showed the lowest threshold bias and highest precision.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date