Visual crowding in driving

J Vis. 2020 Jun 3;20(6):1. doi: 10.1167/jov.20.6.1.


Visual crowding-the deleterious influence of nearby objects on object recognition-is considered to be a major bottleneck for object recognition in cluttered environments. Although crowding has been studied for decades with static and artificial stimuli, it is still unclear how crowding operates when viewing natural dynamic scenes in real-life situations. For example, driving is a frequent and potentially fatal real-life situation where crowding may play a critical role. In order to investigate the role of crowding in this kind of situation, we presented observers with naturalistic driving videos and recorded their eye movements while they performed a simulated driving task. We found that the saccade localization on pedestrians was impacted by visual clutter, in a manner consistent with the diagnostic criteria of crowding (Bouma's rule of thumb, flanker similarity tuning, and the radial-tangential anisotropy). In order to further confirm that altered saccadic localization is a behavioral consequence of crowding, we also showed that crowding occurs in the recognition of cluttered pedestrians in a more conventional crowding paradigm. We asked participants to discriminate the gender of pedestrians in static video frames and found that the altered saccadic localization correlated with the degree of crowding of the saccade targets. Taken together, our results provide strong evidence that crowding impacts both recognition and goal-directed actions in natural driving situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Crowding*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult