Spatial scaling in human peripheral vision

  • Pia K. Makela

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The observation that performance in many visual tasks can be made independent of eccentricity by increasing the size of peripheral stimuli according to the cortical magnification factor has dominated studies of peripheral vision for many years. However, it has become evident that the cortical magnification factor cannot be successfully applied to all tasks. To find out why, several tasks were studied using spatial scaling, a method which requires no pre-determined scaling factors (such as those predicted from cortical magnification) to magnify the stimulus at any eccentricity. Instead, thresholds are measured at the fovea and in the periphery using a series of stimuli, all of which are simply magnified versions of one another. Analysis of the data obtained in this way reveals the value of the parameter E2, the eccentricity at which foveal stimulus size must double in order to maintain performance equivalent to that at the fovea.
The tasks investigated include hyperacuities (vernier acuity, bisection acuity, spatial interval discrimination, referenced displacement detection, and orientation discrimination), unreferenced instantaneous and gradual movement, flicker sensitivity, and face discrimination. In all cases tasks obeyed the principle of spatial scaling since performance in the periphery could be equated to that at the fovea by appropriate magnification. However, E2 values found for different spatial tasks varied over a 200-fold range. In spatial tasks (e.g. bisection acuity and spatial interval discrimination) E2 values were low, reaching about 0.075 deg, whereas in movement tasks the values could be as high as 16 deg.
Using a method of spatial scaling it has been possible to equate foveal and peripheral perfonnance in many diverse visual tasks. The rate at which peripheral stimulus size had to be increased as a function of eccentricity was dependent upon the stimulus conditions and the task itself. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed.

Date of AwardMar 1994
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Whitaker (Supervisor)


  • magnification
  • eccentricity
  • hyperacuity
  • movement
  • flicker

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