We used diffraction modulation transfer functions and model eyes to predict the effect of defocus on the contrast sensitivity function (CSF) and compared these predictions with previously published experimental data. Using the principle that optically induced changes in the modulation transfer function should be paralleled by identical changes in the CSF, we used the modulation transfer function calculations with the best-focus CSF measurements to predict the defocused CSF. An aberration-free model predicted the effects of defocus well when the CSF was measured with small pupils (e.g., 2 mm) but not with larger pupils (6-8 mm). When the model included average aberrations, prediction of the defocused CSF with large pupils was better but remained inaccurate, failing, in particular, to reflect differences between individual subjects. Inclusion of measured aberrations for individual subjects provided accurate predictions in the shape of the monochromatic CSF of two of three subjects with hyperopic defocus and good predictions of the polychromatic CSF of two subjects with hyperopic defocus. Prediction of the effects of myopic defocus by use of measured individual aberrations of one subject were less successful. Hence a diffraction optics model can provide good predictions of the effects of defocus on the human CSF, given that one has knowledge of the individual ocular aberrations. These predictions are dependent on the quality of the aberration measurements.