Contextual effects on decision templates for parafoveal orientation identification

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When a peripherally viewed stimulus is presented with flankers, observers' acuity for shape generally decreases. We wondered whether a change in the locus of information accrual accompanied these performance deficits and employed psychophysical reverse correlation to find out. Surrounding the target (a near-vertical Gabor patch) with a vertical grating caused a slight elongation and a rotation in the decision templates for orientation identification. We also found that the contrast required to maintain criterion performance in this condition was actually lower than it was in a target-alone condition. However, this facilitation decreased with practice, due to perceptual learning in the target-alone condition. Unlike a continuous surround, isolated flanks elevated contrast thresholds, but decision templates were similar with both of these contexts. The rotation of decision templates (off-orientation looking) suggests that performance is limited by additive internal noise. We speculate that this noise can be reduced when the target is easily segregated from its surround.

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