Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was performed on simulated near-infrared tomography images, using both human observer and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) computational assessment, for application in breast cancer imaging. In the analysis, a nonparametric approach was applied for estimating the ROC curves. Human observer detection of objects had superior capability to localize the presence of heterogeneities when the objects were small with high contrast, with a minimum detectable threshold of CNR near 3.0 to 3.3 in the images. Human observers were able to detect heterogeneities in the images below a size limit of 4 mm, yet could not accurately find the location of these objects when they were below 10 mm diameter. For large objects, the lower limit of a detectable contrast limit was near 10% increase relative to the background. The results also indicate that iterations of the nonlinear reconstruction algorithm beyond 4 did not significantly improve the human detection ability, and degraded the overall localization ability for the objects in the image, predominantly by increasing the noise in the background. Interobserver variance performance in detecting objects in these images was low, suggesting that because of the low spatial resolution, detection tasks with NIR tomography is likely consistent between human observers.