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Ying-Zi Xiong, Cong Yu, Jun-Yun Zhang; Perceptual learning eases crowding by reducing recognition errors but not position errors. Journal of Vision 2015;15(11):16. https://doi.org/10.1167/15.11.16.
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When an observer reports a letter flanked by additional letters in the visual periphery, the response errors (the crowding effect) may result from failure to recognize the target letter (recognition errors), from mislocating a correctly recognized target letter at a flanker location (target misplacement errors), or from reporting a flanker as the target letter (flanker substitution errors). Crowding can be reduced through perceptual learning. However, it is not known how perceptual learning operates to reduce crowding. In this study we trained observers with a partial-report task (Experiment 1), in which they reported the central target letter of a three-letter string presented in the visual periphery, or a whole-report task (Experiment 2), in which they reported all three letters in order. We then assessed the impact of training on recognition of both unflanked and flanked targets, with particular attention to how perceptual learning affected the types of errors. Our results show that training improved target recognition but not single-letter recognition, indicating that training indeed affected crowding. However, training did not reduce target misplacement errors or flanker substitution errors. This dissociation between target recognition and flanker substitution errors supports the view that flanker substitution may be more likely a by-product (due to response bias), rather than a cause, of crowding. Moreover, the dissociation is not consistent with hypothesized mechanisms of crowding that would predict reduced positional errors.
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