Visual sensitivity varies across the visual field in several characteristic ways. For example, sensitivity declines sharply in peripheral (vs. foveal) vision and is typically worse in the upper (vs. lower) visual field. These variations can affect processes ranging from acuity and crowding (the deleterious effect of clutter on object recognition) to the precision of saccadic eye movements. Here we examine whether these variations can be attributed to a common source within the visual system. We first compared the size of crowding zones with the precision of saccades using an oriented clock target and two adjacent flanker elements. We report that both saccade precision and crowded-target reports vary idiosyncratically across the visual field with a strong correlation across tasks for all participants. Nevertheless, both group-level and trial-by-trial analyses reveal dissociations that exclude a common representation for the two processes. We therefore compared crowding with two measures of spatial localization: Landolt-C gap resolution and three-dot bisection. Here we observe similar idiosyncratic variations with strong interparticipant correlations across tasks despite considerably finer precision. Hierarchical regression analyses further show that variations in spatial precision account for much of the variation in crowding, including the correlation between crowding and saccades. Altogether, we demonstrate that crowding, spatial localization, and saccadic precision show clear dissociations, indicative of independent spatial representations, whilst nonetheless sharing idiosyncratic variations in spatial topology. We propose that these topological idiosyncrasies are established early in the visual system and inherited throughout later stages to affect a range of higher-level representations.
Keywords: crowding; peripheral vision; position; saccadic eye movements; spatial vision.