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Perceived positions determine crowding.

  • Author(s): Maus, Gerrit
  • Fischer, Jason
  • Whitney, David
  • et al.
Abstract

Crowding is a fundamental bottleneck in object recognition. In crowding, an object in the periphery becomes unrecognizable when surrounded by clutter or distractor objects. Crowding depends on the positions of target and distractors, both their eccentricity and their relative spacing. In all previous studies, position has been expressed in terms of retinal position. However, in a number of situations retinal and perceived positions can be dissociated. Does retinal or perceived position determine the magnitude of crowding? Here observers performed an orientation judgment on a target Gabor patch surrounded by distractors that drifted toward or away from the target, causing an illusory motion-induced position shift. Distractors in identical physical positions led to worse performance when they drifted towards the target (appearing closer) versus away from the target (appearing further). This difference in crowding corresponded to the difference in perceived positions. Further, the perceptual mislocalization was necessary for the change in crowding, and both the mislocalization and crowding scaled with drift speed. The results show that crowding occurs after perceived positions have been assigned by the visual system. Crowding does not operate in a purely retinal coordinate system; perceived positions need to be taken into account.

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