The same binding in contour integration and crowding

Ramakrishna Chakravarthi, Denis G. Pelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Binding of features helps object recognition in contour integration but hinders it in crowding. In contour integration, aligned adjacent objects group together to form a path. In crowding, flanking objects make the target unidentifiable. However, to date, the two tasks have only been studied separately. K. A. May and R. F. Hess (2007) suggested that the same binding mediates both tasks. To test this idea, we ask observers to perform two different tasks with the same stimulus. We present oriented grating patches that form a "snake letter" in the periphery. Observers report either the identity of the whole letter (contour integration task) or the phase of one of the grating patches (crowding task). We manipulate the strength of binding between gratings by varying the alignment between them, i.e., the Gestalt goodness of continuation, measured as "wiggle." We find that better alignment strengthens binding, which improves contour integration and worsens crowding. Observers show equal sensitivity to alignment in these two very different tasks, suggesting that the same binding mechanism underlies both phenomena. It has been claimed that grouping among flankers reduces their crowding of the target. Instead, we find that these published cases of weak crowding are due to weak binding resulting from target-flanker misalignment. We conclude that crowding is mediated solely by the grouping of flankers with the target and is independent of grouping among flankers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number8
Early online date14 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • crowding
  • spatial vision
  • letter recognition
  • object recognition
  • reading
  • wiggle
  • grouping
  • binding
  • Gestalt
  • contour integration
  • good continuation
  • alignment
  • snake letter


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