Bayesian adaptive stimulus selection for dissociating models of psychophysical data

James R.H. Cooke*, Luc P.J. Selen, Robert J. van Beers, W. Pieter Medendorp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Comparing models facilitates testing different hypotheses regarding the computational basis of perception and action. Effective model comparison requires stimuli for which models make different predictions. Typically, experiments use a predetermined set of stimuli or sample stimuli randomly. Both methods have limitations; a predetermined set may not contain stimuli that dissociate the models, whereas random sampling may be inefficient. To overcome these limitations, we expanded the psi-algorithm (Kontsevich & Tyler, 1999) from estimating the parameters of a psychometric curve to distinguishing models. To test our algorithm, we applied it to two distinct problems. First, we investigated dissociating sensory noise models. We simulated ideal observers with different noise models performing a two-alternative forced-choice task. Stimuli were selected randomly or using our algorithm. We found using our algorithm improved the accuracy of model comparison. We also validated the algorithm in subjects by inferring which noise model underlies speed perception. Our algorithm converged quickly to the model previously proposed (Stocker & Simoncelli, 2006), whereas if stimuli were selected randomly, model probabilities separated slower and sometimes supported alternative models. Second, we applied our algorithm to a different problem-comparing models of target selection under body acceleration. Previous work found target choice preference is modulated by whole body acceleration (Rincon-Gonzalez et al., 2016). However, the effect is subtle, making model comparison difficult. We show that selecting stimuli adaptively could have led to stronger conclusions in model comparison. We conclude that our technique is more efficient and more reliable than current methods of stimulus selection for dissociating models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number8
Early online date24 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Adaptive experiment design
  • Bayesian
  • Model comparison


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