Infoscience

Journal article

Is there a common factor for vision?

In cognition, common factors play a crucial role. For example, different types of intelligence are highly correlated, pointing to a common factor, which is often called g. One might expect that a similar common factor would also exist for vision. Surprisingly, no one in the field has addressed this issue. Here, we provide the first evidence that there is no common factor for vision. We tested 40 healthy students' performance in six basic visual paradigms: visual acuity, vernier discrimination, two visual backward masking paradigms, Gabor detection, and bisection discrimination. One might expect that performance levels on these tasks would be highly correlated because some individuals generally have better vision than others due to superior optics, better retinal or cortical processing, or enriched visual experience. However, only four out of 15 correlations were significant, two of which were nontrivial. These results cannot be explained by high intraobserver variability or ceiling effects because test-retest reliability was high and the variance in our student population is commensurate with that from other studies with well-sighted populations. Using a variety of tests (e.g., principal components analysis, Bayes theorem, test-retest reliability), we show the robustness of our null results. We suggest that neuroplasticity operates during everyday experience to generate marked individual differences. Our results apply only to the normally sighted population (i.e., restricted range sampling). For the entire population, including those with degenerate vision, we expect different results.

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