Indexed on: 03 Mar '21Published on: 03 Mar '21Published in: Scientific Reports
In perceptual crowding, a letter easily recognized on its own, becomes unrecognizable if it is surrounded by other letters, an effect that confers a limit on the visual processing. Models assume that crowding is a hallmark of the periphery but that it is almost absent in the fovea. However, recently it was shown that crowding occurs in the fovea of people with an abnormal development of functional vision (amblyopia), when the stimulus is presented for a very short time. When targets and flankers are dissimilar, the crowding is reduced (tagging). Since a combination of binocular inputs increases the processing load, we investigated whether color tagging the target reduces crowding in the fovea of subjects with normal vision and determined how crowding is combined with binocular vision. The crowding effect at the fovea was significantly reduced by tagging with a color target. Interestingly, whereas binocular summation for a single letter was expected to be about 40%, it was significantly reduced and almost absent under crowding conditions. Our results are consistent with the notion that the crowding effect produces a high processing load on visual processing, which interferes with other processes such as binocular summation. We assume that the tagging effect in our experiment improved the subject's abilities (sensitivity and RT) by creating a "segmentation", i.e., a visual simulated separation between the target letter and the background. Interestingly, tagging the target with a distinct color can eliminate or reduce the crowding effect and consequently, binocular summation recovers.