Shrinking Bouma's window: How to model crowding in dense displays
van der Burg, E.
In crowding, perception of a target deteriorates in the presence of nearby flankers. Traditionally, it is thought that visual crowding obeys Bouma's law, i.e., all elements within a certain distance interfere with the target, and that adding more elements always leads to stronger crowding. Crowding is predominantly studied using sparse displays (a target surrounded by a few flankers). However, many studies have shown that this approach leads to wrong conclusions about human vision. Van der Burg and colleagues proposed a paradigm to measure crowding in dense displays using genetic algorithms. Displays were selected and combined over several generations to maximize human performance. In contrast to Bouma's law, only the target's nearest neighbours affected performance. Here, we tested various models to explain these results. We used the same genetic algorithm, but instead of selecting displays based on human performance we selected displays based on the model's outputs. We found that all models based on the traditional feedforward pooling framework of vision were unable to reproduce human behaviour. In contrast, all models involving a dedicated grouping stage explained the results successfully. We show how traditional models can be improved by adding a grouping stage. © 2021 Bornet et al.
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Plos Computational Biology, 17 (17), e1009187