Search performance for a target tilted in a known direction among vertical distractors is well explained by signal detection theory models. Typically these models use a maximum-of-outputs rule (Max rule) to predict search performance. The Max rule bases its decision on the largest response from a set of independent noisy detectors. When the target is tilted in either direction from the reference orientation and the task is to identify the sign of tilt, the loss of performance with set size is much greater than predicted by the Max rule. Here we varied the target tilt and measured psychometric functions for identifying the direction of tilt from vertical. Measurements were made at different set sizes in the presence of various levels of orientation jitter. The orientation jitter was set at multiples of the estimated internal noise, which was invariant across set sizes and measurement techniques. We then compared the data to the predictions of two models: a Summation model that integrates both signal and noise from local detectors and a Signed-Max model that first picks the maxima on both sides of vertical and then chooses the value with the highest absolute deviation from the reference. Although the function relating thresholds to set size had a slope consistent with both the Signed-Max and the Summation models, the shape of individual psychometric functions was in the most crucial conditions better predicted by the Signed-Max model, which chooses the largest tilt while keeping track of the direction of tilt.
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