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Sarah Rosen, Denis G. Pelli; Crowding by a repeating pattern. Journal of Vision 2015;15(6):10. doi: 10.1167/15.6.10.
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Theinability to recognize a peripheral target among flankers is called crowding. For a foveal target, crowding can be distinguished from overlap masking by its sparing of detection, linear scaling with eccentricity, and invariance with target size.Crowding depends on the proximity and similarity of the flankers to the target. Flankers that are far from or dissimilar to the target do not crowd it. On a gray page, text whose neighboring letters have different colors, alternately black and white, has enough dissimilarity that it might escape crowding. Since reading speed is normally limited by crowding, escape from crowding should allow faster reading. Yet reading speed is unchanged (Chung & Mansfield, 2009). Why? A recent vernier study found that using alternating-color flankers produces strong crowding (Manassi, Sayim, & Herzog, 2012). Might that effect occur with letters and reading? Critical spacing is the minimum center-to-center target–flanker spacing needed to correctly identify the target. We measure it for a target letter surrounded by several equidistant flanker letters of the same polarity, opposite polarity, or mixed polarity: alternately white and black. We find strong crowding in the alternating condition, even though each flanker letter is beyond its own critical spacing (as measured in a separate condition). Thus a periodic repeating pattern can produce crowding even when the individual elements do not. Further, in all conditions we find that, once a periodic pattern repeats (two cycles), further repetition does not affect critical spacing of the innermost flanker.
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