A visual just noticeable difference (VJND) is the amount of change in either an image (e.g. a photographic print) or in vision (e.g. due to a change in refractive power of a vision correction device or visually coupled optical system) that is just noticeable when compared with the prior state. Numerous theoretical and clinical studies have been performed to determine the amount of change in various visual inputs (power, spherical aberration, astigmatism, etc.) that result in a just noticeable visual change. Each of these approaches, in defining a VJND, relies on the comparison of two visual stimuli. The first stimulus is the nominal or baseline state and the second is the perturbed state that results in a VJND. Using this commonality, we converted each result to the change in the area of the modulation transfer function (AMTF) to provide a more fundamental understanding of what results in a VJND. We performed an analysis of the wavefront criteria from basic optics, the image quality metrics, and clinical studies testing various visual inputs, showing that fractional changes in AMTF resulting in one VJND range from 0.025 to 0.075. In addition, cycloplegia appears to desensitize the human visual system so that a much larger change in the retinal image is required to give a VJND. This finding may be of great import for clinical vision tests. Finally, we present applications of the VJND model for the determination of threshold ocular aberrations and manufacturing tolerances of visually coupled optical systems.