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Sustained focal attention and peripheral letter recognition

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Topographic characteristics of peripheral letter recognition were investigated using a sustained attention paradigm to clarify whether its deployment in the visual field is equally easy in all eight tested locations at 7.5 deg eccentricity. Target size (36 arcmin) was clearly above threshold, so that letters were easily recognized at long durations (> 500 ms). In the main experiment, they were displayed for an individually determined duration of 66 to 167 ms. Six of twelve normally sighted subjects were in their twenties, the others in their fifties. The target location was cued (1 s), and after 2.5-4 s delay, a target was displayed. The results provide strong evidence that performance depended significantly on location and subject. All spatial characteristics showed anisometry, and most showed vertical asymmetry of either sign. Performance was always best on the horizontal meridian. None of the results correlated with subject age. These findings also show that in disfavored locations, performance is limited by deploying attention there, not by holding it there. Consequently, in low vision rehabilitation after binocular central field loss, the choice of a preferred retinal locus for 'eccentric viewing' can be limited by an attentional factor that is unrelated to the eye disease.

Affiliations: 1: The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, 2232 Webster Street, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA


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