What crowding can tell us about object representations
In crowding, perception of a target usually deteriorates when flanking elements are presented next to the target. Surprisingly, adding further flankers can lead to a release from crowding. In previous work we showed that, for example, vernier offset discrimination at 98 of eccentricity deteriorated when a vernier was embedded in a square. Adding further squares improved performance. The more squares presented, the better the performance, extending across 208 of the visual field. Here, we show that very similar results hold true for shapes other than squares, including unfamiliar, irregular shapes. Hence, uncrowding is not restricted to simple and familiar shapes. Our results provoke the question of whether any type of shape is represented at any location in the visual field. Moreover, small changes in the orientation of the flanking shapes led to strong increases in crowding strength. Hence, highly specific shape-specific interactions across large parts of the visual field determine vernier acuity.