Visual acuity and contrast sensitivity progressively diminish with increasing viewing eccentricity. Here we evaluated how visual enumeration is affected by visual eccentricity, and whether subitizing capacity, the accurate enumeration of a small number (∼3) of items, decreases with more eccentric viewing. Participants enumerated gratings whose (1) stimulus size was constant across eccentricity, and (2) whose stimulus size scaled by a cortical magnification factor across eccentricity. While we found that enumeration accuracy and precision decreased with increasing eccentricity, cortical magnification scaling of size neutralized the deleterious effects of increasing eccentricity. We found that size scaling did not affect subitizing capacities, which were nearly constant across all eccentricities. We also found that size scaling modulated the variation coefficients, a normalized metric of enumeration precision, defined as the standard deviation divided by the mean response. Our results show that the inaccuracy and imprecision associated with increasing viewing eccentricity is due to limitations in spatial resolution. Moreover, our results also support the notion that the precise number system is restricted to small numerosities (represented by the subitizing limit), while the approximate number system extends across both small and large numerosities (indexed by variation coefficients) at large eccentricities.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 10-June-2011
Author(s): Palomares M., Smith P., Pitts C., Carter B.