Object crowding

Julian M Wallace, Bosco S Tjan
Journal of Vision 2011, 11 (6)
Crowding occurs when stimuli in the peripheral fields become harder to identify when flanked by other items. This phenomenon has been demonstrated extensively with simple patterns (e.g., Gabors and letters). Here, we characterize crowding for everyday objects. We presented three-item arrays of objects and letters, arranged radially and tangentially in the lower visual field. Observers identified the central target, and we measured contrast energy thresholds as a function of target-to-flanker spacing. Object crowding was similar to letter crowding in spatial extent but was much weaker. The average elevation in threshold contrast energy was in the order of 1 log unit for objects as compared to 2 log units for letters and silhouette objects. Furthermore, we examined whether the exterior and interior features of an object are differentially affected by crowding. We used a circular aperture to present or exclude the object interior. Critical spacings for these aperture and "donut" objects were similar to those of intact objects. Taken together, these findings suggest that crowding between letters and objects are essentially due to the same mechanism, which affects equally the interior and exterior features of an object. However, for objects defined with varying shades of gray, it is much easier to overcome crowding by increasing contrast.

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