Conference paper

How best to unify crowding?

Crowding refers to the detrimental effect of nearby elements on target perception. Recently, Harrison and Bex (Curr Biol, 2015) modeled performance in a novel orientation crowding paradigm where observers reported the orientation of a Landolt C presented alone or surrounded by a flanking C. They found that crowding decreased as flanker radius increased, and their model fit these results well. A key prediction of their model is that flankers with each radius, if presented simultaneously, will additively deteriorate performance. However, evidence from other paradigms suggests that presenting several flankers can actually improve performance, if configured to group separately from the target (e.g., Manassi et al., J Vis 2012). Here, we show a similar grouping effect in the orientation crowding paradigm. We tested observers in three conditions: no flanker, one flanker, or five aligned flankers. All of our observers experienced less crowding with five aligned flankers than one flanker, and our reproduction of Harrison and Bex’s model indeed produced the opposite result. Although Harrison and Bex’s model provides a powerful framework to explain some crowding phenomena, a truly unifying model must also account for such grouping effects, as they are likely ubiquitous in everyday environments.


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