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Valentina Robol, Clara Casco, Steven C. Dakin; The role of crowding in contextual influences on contour integration. Journal of Vision 2012;12(7):3. doi: 10.1167/12.7.3.
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Dakin and Baruch (2009) investigated how context influences contour integration, specifically reporting that near-perpendicular surrounding-elements reduced the exposure-duration observers required to localize and determine the shape of contours (compared to performance with randomly oriented surrounds) while near-parallel surrounds increased this time. Here, we ask if this effect might be a manifestation of visual crowding (the disruptive influence of “visual clutter” on object recognition). We first report that the effect generalizes to simple contour-localization (without explicit shape-discrimination) and influences tolerance to orientation jitter in the same way it affects threshold exposure-duration. We next directly examined the role of crowding by quantifying observers' local uncertainty (about the orientation of the elements that comprised our contours), showing that this largely accounts for the effects of context on global contour integration. These findings support the idea that context influences contour integration at a predominantly local stage of processing and that the local effects of crowding eventually influence downstream stages in the cortical processing of visual form.
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