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Andrea Albonico, Marialuisa Martelli, Emanuela Bricolo, Eleonora Frasson, Roberta Daini; Focusing and orienting spatial attention differently modulate crowding in central and peripheral vision. Journal of Vision 2018;18(3):4. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.3.4.
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The allocation of attentional resources to a particular location or object in space involves two distinct processes: an orienting process and a focusing process. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that performance of different visual tasks can be improved when a cue, such as a dot, anticipates the position of the target (orienting), or when its dimensions (as in the case of a small square) inform about the size of the attentional window (focusing). Here, we examine the role of these two components of visuo-spatial attention (orienting and focusing) in modulating crowding in peripheral (Experiment 1 and Experiment 3a) and foveal (Experiment 2 and Experiment 3b) vision. The task required to discriminate the orientation of a target letter “T,” close to acuity threshold, presented with left and right “H” flankers, as a function of target-flanker distance. Three cue types have been used: a red dot, a small square, and a big square. In peripheral vision (Experiment 1 and Experiment 3a), we found a significant improvement with the red dot and no advantage when a small square was used as a cue. In central vision (Experiment 2 and Experiment 3b), only the small square significantly improved participants' performance, reducing the critical distance needed to recover target identification. Taken together, the results indicate a behavioral dissociation of orienting and focusing attention in their capability of modulating crowding. In particular, we confirmed that orientation of attention can modulate crowding in visual periphery, while we found that focal attention can modulate foveal crowding.
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