Journal article

Grouping, pooling, and when bigger is better in visual crowding

In crowding, perception of a target is strongly deteriorated by nearby elements. Crowding is often explained by pooling models predicting that adding flankers increases crowding. In contrast, the centroid hypothesis proposes that adding flankers decreases crowding—‘‘bigger is better.’’ In foveal vision, we have recently shown that adding flankers can increase or decrease crowding depending on whether the target groups or ungroups from the flankers. We have further shown how configural effects, such as good and global Gestalt, determine crowding. Foveal and peripheral crowding do not always reveal the same characteristics. Here, we show that the very same grouping and Gestalt results of foveal vision are also found in the periphery. These results can neither be explained by simple pooling nor by centroid models. We discuss when bigger is better and how grouping might shape crowding.


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