Quantization of the coefficients within a discrete wavelet transform subband gives rise to distortions in the reconstructed image that are localized in spatial frequency and orientation and are spatially correlated with the image. We investigated the detectability of these distortions: Contrast thresholds were measured for both simple and compound distortions presented in the unmasked paradigm and against two natural-image maskers. Simple and compound distortions were generated through uniform scalar quantization of one or two subbands. Unmasked detection thresholds for simple distortions yielded contrast sensitivity functions similar to those reported for 1-octave Gabor patches. Detection thresholds for simple distortions presented against two natural-image backgrounds revealed that thresholds were elevated across the frequency range of 1.15–18.4 cycles per degree with the greatest elevation for low-frequency distortions. Unmasked thresholds for compound distortions revealed relative sensitivities of 1.1–1.2, suggesting that summation of responses to wavelet distortions is similar to summation of responses to gratings. Masked thresholds for compound distortions revealed relative sensitivities of 1.5–1.7, suggesting greater summation when distortions are masked by natural images.
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