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Yury Petrov, Olga Meleshkevich; Locus of spatial attention determines inward–outward anisotropy in crowding. Journal of Vision 2011;11(4):1. doi: 10.1167/11.4.1.
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It has long been known that an outward mask is much more disruptive than an inward mask in crowding (H. Bouma, 1973). We show that the locus of attention strongly affects this inward–outward anisotropy, removing it in some conditions and reversing it in others. In a 2AFC paradigm, subjects identified whether a high-contrast Gabor target of a given orientation was presented left or right of fixation. When a fixed eccentricity (8°) was used, the outward plaid mask produced much stronger crowding than the inward mask. When 7°, 8°, and 9° eccentricities were interleaved within the same run, diffusing attention, the inward and outward masks produced the same amount of crowding for all three eccentricities. When target identification was contingent on a foveal cue, biasing attention inward, the inward mask produced stronger crowding. Finally, a new contrast-detection paradigm was used to demonstrate that attention is generally mislocalized outward of the target, which may explain the commonly observed anisotropy in crowding. Our results suggest that spatial attention is intimately involved in the mechanism of crowding.
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