In the receiver operating characteristic paradigm the observer assigns a single rating to each image and the location of the perceived abnormality, if any, is ignored. In the free-response receiver operating characteristic paradigm the observer is free to mark and rate as many suspicious regions as are considered clinically reportable. Credit for a correct localization is given only if a mark is sufficiently close to an actual lesion; otherwise, the observer's mark is scored as a location-level false positive. Until fairly recently there existed no accepted method for analyzing the resulting relatively unstructured data containing random numbers of mark-rating pairs per image. This report reviews the history of work in this field, which has now spanned more than five decades. It introduces terminology used to describe the paradigm, proposed measures of performance (figures of merit), ways of visualizing the data (operating characteristics), and software for analyzing free-response receiver operating characteristic studies.
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