Many definitions of this term have been offered.
Geisler (2003) (slightly reworded): The central concept in ideal observer analysis is the ideal observer, a theoretical device that performs a given task in an optimal fashion given the available information and some specified constraints. This is not to say that ideal observers perform without error, but rather that they perform at the physical limit of what is possible in the situation. The fundamental role of uncertainty and noise implies that ideal observers must be defined in probabilistic (statistical) terms. Ideal observer analysis involves determining the performance of the ideal observer in a given task and then comparing its performance to that of a real perceptual system, which (depending on the application) might be the system as a whole, a subsystem, or an elementary component of the system (e.g. a neuron).
Read more about this topic: Ideal Observer Analysis
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