A crowdful of letters: disentangling the role of similarity, eccentricity and spatial frequencies in letter crowding

Sacha Zahabi, Martin Arguin
Vision Research 2014, 97: 45-51
The present study investigated the joint impact of target-flanker similarity and of spatial frequency content on the crowding effect in letter identification. We presented spatial frequency filtered letters to neurologically intact non-dyslexic readers while manipulating target-flanker distance, target eccentricity and target-flanker confusability (letter similarity metric based on published letter confusion matrices). The results show that high target-flanker confusability magnifies crowding. They also reveal an intricate pattern of interactions of the spatial frequency content of the stimuli with target eccentricity, flanker distance and similarity. The findings are congruent with the notion that crowding results from the inappropriate pooling of target and flanker features and that this integration is more likely to match a response template at a subsequent decision stage with similar than dissimilar flankers. In addition, the evidence suggests that crowding from similar flankers is biased towards relatively high spatial frequencies and that crowding shifts towards lower spatial frequencies as target eccentricity is increased.

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