Spatial-frequency characteristics of letter identification are much better understood in the fovea than in the periphery. The purpose of this study was to compare the spatial-frequency characteristics of letter identification in central and peripheral vision. We measured contrast thresholds for identifying single, Times-Roman lower-case letters that were spatially band-pass filtered. Each of the 26 letters was digitally filtered with a set of nine cosine log filters, with peak object spatial frequencies ranging from 0.63 to 10 c/letter, in half-octave steps. Bandwidth of the filters was 1 octave. Three observers with normal vision were each tested monocularly at the fovea, and at 5° and 10° in the inferior visual field. Letter sizes were 0.2, 0.4 and 0.6 log units larger than high contrast, unfiltered acuity letters. Plots of contrast sensitivity for letter identification vs. frequency of the band-pass filters exhibit spatial tuning. In general, the spatial-frequency characteristics of letter identification are fundamentally identical between central and peripheral vision. These characteristics include the scaling of the peak frequency of the spatial-tuning functions with letter size and the bandwidth of the tuning functions. The only difference between the fovea and the periphery is that for the same physical letter size, peak sensitivity of the spatial-tuning functions occurs at a higher retinal frequency at the fovea than in the periphery. To test whether or not the contrast sensitivity function (CSF) can account for the differences in the spatial-frequency characteristics of letter identification between central and peripheral vision, we incorporated a human CSF into an ideal-observer model, and tested the performance of this ideal-observer on the same letter identification task used with the human observers. Data from this CSF-ideal-observer resemble closely those of human observers, suggesting that the spatial-frequency characteristics of human letter identification can be accounted for by the CSF and the letter-identity information, without invoking selection among narrow-band spatial-frequency channels.
Vision Research – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2002
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