The effect of spacing regularity on visual crowding

T P Saarela, G Westheimer, M H Herzog
Journal of Vision 2010, 10 (10): 17
Crowding limits peripheral visual discrimination and recognition: a target easily identified in isolation becomes impossible to recognize when surrounded by other stimuli, often called flankers. Most accounts of crowding predict less crowding when the target-flanker distance increases. On the other hand, the importance of perceptual organization and target-flanker coherence in crowding has recently received more attention. We investigated the effect of target-flanker spacing on crowding in multi-element stimulus arrays. We show that increasing the average distance between the target and the flankers does not always decrease the amount of crowding but can even sometimes increase it. We suggest that the regularity of inter-element spacing plays an important role in determining the strength of crowding: regular spacing leads to the perception of a single, coherent, texture-like stimulus, making judgments about the individual elements difficult.

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