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Ronald van den Berg, Addie Johnson, Angela Martinez Anton, Anne L. Schepers, Frans W. Cornelissen; Comparing crowding in human and ideal observers. Journal of Vision 2012;12(6):13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.6.13.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A visual target is more difficult to recognize when it is surrounded by other, similar objects. This breakdown in object recognition is known as crowding. Despite a long history of experimental work, computational models of crowding are still sparse. Specifically, few studies have examined crowding using an ideal-observer approach. Here, we compare crowding in ideal observers with crowding in humans. We derived an ideal-observer model for target identification under conditions of position and identity uncertainty. Simulations showed that this model reproduces the hallmark of crowding, namely a critical spacing that scales with viewing eccentricity. To examine how well the model fits quantitatively to human data, we performed three experiments. In Experiments 1 and2, we measured observers' perceptual uncertainty about stimulus positions and identities, respectively, for a target in isolation. In Experiment 3, observers identified a target that was flanked by two distractors. We found that about half of the errors in Experiment 3 could be accounted for by the perceptual uncertainty measured in Experiments 1 and2. The remainder of the errors could be accounted for by assuming that uncertainty (i.e., the width of internal noise distribution) about stimulus positions and identities depends on flanker proximity. Our results provide a mathematical restatement of the crowding problem and support the hypothesis that crowding behavior is a sign of optimality rather than a perceptual defect.
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