Detection thresholds in polarized intensity and polarization bias correction are investigated for surveys where the polarization information is obtained from rotation measure (RM) synthesis. Considering unresolved sources with a single RM, a detection threshold of 8 σQU applied to the Faraday spectrum will retrieve the RM with a false detection rate less than 10−4, but polarized intensity is more strongly biased than Ricean statistics suggest. For a detection threshold of 5 σQU, the false detection rate increases to ∼4%, depending also on λ2 coverage and the extent of the Faraday spectrum. Non-Gaussian noise in Stokes Q and U due to imperfect imaging and calibration can be represented by a distribution that is the sum of a Gaussian and an exponential. The non-Gaussian wings of the noise distribution increase the false detection rate in polarized intensity by orders of magnitude. Monte Carlo simulations assuming non-Gaussian noise in Q and U give false detection rates at 8 σQU similar to Ricean false detection rates at 4.9 σQU.
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