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1.  Enhanced Text Spacing Improves Reading Performance in Individuals with Macular Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80325.
The search by many investigators for a solution to the reading problems encountered by individuals with no central vision has been long and, to date, not very fruitful. Most textual manipulations, including font size, have led to only modest gains in reading speed. Previous work on spatial integrative properties of peripheral retina suggests that ‘visual crowding’ may be a major factor contributing to inefficient reading. Crowding refers to the fact that juxtaposed targets viewed eccentrically may be difficult to identify. The purpose of this study was to assess the combined effects of line spacing and word spacing on the ability of individuals with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) to read short passages of text that were printed with either high (87.5%) or low contrast (17.5%) letters. Low contrast text was used to avoid potential ceiling effects and to mimic a possible reduction in letter contrast with light scatter from media opacities. For both low and high contrast text, the fastest reading speeds we measured were for passages of text with double line and double word spacing. In comparison with standard single spacing, double word/line spacing increased reading speed by approximately 26% with high contrast text (p < 0.001), and by 46% with low contrast text (p < 0.001). In addition, double line/word spacing more than halved the number of reading errors obtained with single spaced text. We compare our results with previous reading studies on ARMD patients, and conclude that crowding is detrimental to reading and that its effects can be reduced with enhanced text spacing. Spacing is particularly important when the contrast of the text is reduced, as may occur with intraocular light scatter or poor viewing conditions. We recommend that macular disease patients should employ double line spacing and double-character word spacing to maximize their reading efficiency.
PMCID: PMC3823704  PMID: 24244676
2.  Using visual noise to characterize amblyopic letter identification 
Journal of vision  2004;4(10):904-920.
Amblyopia is a much-studied but poorly understood developmental visual disorder that reduces acuity, profoundly reducing contrast sensitivity for small targets. Here we use visual noise to probe the letter identification process and characterize its impairment by amblyopia. We apply five levels of analysis — threshold, threshold in noise, equivalent noise, optical MTF, and noise modeling — to obtain a two-factor model of the amblyopic deficit: substantially reduced efficiency for small letters and negligibly increased cortical noise. Cortical noise, expressed as an equivalent input noise, varies among amblyopes but is roughly 1.4× normal, as though only 1/1.4 the normal number of cortical spikes are devoted to the amblyopic eye. This raises threshold contrast for large letters by a factor of √1.4 = 1.2×, a negligible effect. All 16 amblyopic observers showed near-normal efficiency for large letters (> 4× acuity) and greatly reduced efficiency for small letters: 1/4 normal at 2× acuity and approaching 1/16 normal at acuity. Finding that the acuity loss represents a loss of efficiency rules out all models of amblyopia except those that predict the same sensitivity loss on blank and noisy backgrounds. One such model is the last-channel hypothesis, which supposes that the highest-spatial-frequency channels are missing, leaving the remaining highest-frequency channel struggling to identify the smallest letters. However, this hypothesis is rejected by critical band masking of letter identification, which shows that the channels used by the amblyopic eye have normal tuning for even the smallest letters. Finally, based on these results, we introduce a new “Dual Acuity” chart that promises to be a quick diagnostic test for amblyopia.
PMCID: PMC2751822  PMID: 15595894
amblyopia; noise; efficiency; cortical noise; Pelli-Levi Dual Acuity Chart
3.  Grouping in object recognition: The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification 
Cognitive Neuropsychology  2009;26(1):36-49.
The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws “prescribe for us what we are to recognize ‘as one thing’” (Köhler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and “snakes in the grass” is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, “wiggle”, to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.
PMCID: PMC2679997  PMID: 19424881
Gestalt; Grouping; Contour integration; Good continuation; Letter identification; Object recognition; Features; Snake in the grass; Snake letters; Dot lattice
4.  Seeing and Hearing a Word: Combining Eye and Ear Is More Efficient than Combining the Parts of a Word 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64803.
To understand why human sensitivity for complex objects is so low, we study how word identification combines eye and ear or parts of a word (features, letters, syllables). Our observers identify printed and spoken words presented concurrently or separately. When researchers measure threshold (energy of the faintest visible or audible signal) they may report either sensitivity (one over the human threshold) or efficiency (ratio of the best possible threshold to the human threshold). When the best possible algorithm identifies an object (like a word) in noise, its threshold is independent of how many parts the object has. But, with human observers, efficiency depends on the task. In some tasks, human observers combine parts efficiently, needing hardly more energy to identify an object with more parts. In other tasks, they combine inefficiently, needing energy nearly proportional to the number of parts, over a 60∶1 range. Whether presented to eye or ear, efficiency for detecting a short sinusoid (tone or grating) with few features is a substantial 20%, while efficiency for identifying a word with many features is merely 1%. Why? We show that the low human sensitivity for words is a cost of combining their many parts. We report a dichotomy between inefficient combining of adjacent features and efficient combining across senses. Joining our results with a survey of the cue-combination literature reveals that cues combine efficiently only if they are perceived as aspects of the same object. Observers give different names to adjacent letters in a word, and combine them inefficiently. Observers give the same name to a word’s image and sound, and combine them efficiently. The brain’s machinery optimally combines only cues that are perceived as originating from the same object. Presumably such cues each find their own way through the brain to arrive at the same object representation.
PMCID: PMC3667182  PMID: 23734220
5.  Crowding: A cortical constraint on object recognition 
Current opinion in neurobiology  2008;18(4):445-451.
The external world is mapped retinotopically onto the primary visual cortex (V1). We show here that objects in the world, unless they are very dissimilar, can be recognized only if they are sufficiently separated in visual cortex: specifically, in V1, at least 6 mm apart in the radial direction (increasing eccentricity) or 1 mm apart in the circumferential direction (equal eccentricity). Objects closer together than this critical spacing are perceived as an unidentifiable jumble. This is called “crowding”. It severely limits visual processing, including speed of reading and searching. The conclusion about visual cortex rests on three findings. First, psychophysically, the necessary “critical” spacing, in the visual field, is proportional to (roughly half) the eccentricity of the objects. Second, the critical spacing is independent of the size and kind of object. Third, anatomically, the representation of the visual field on the cortical surface is such that position in V1 (and several other areas) is the logarithm of eccentricity in the visual field. Furthermore, we show that much of this can be accounted for by supposing that each “combining field”, defined by the critical spacing measurements, is implemented by a fixed number of cortical neurons.
PMCID: PMC3624758  PMID: 18835355
6.  The same binding in contour integration and crowding 
Journal of vision  2011;11(8):10.1167/11.8.10 10.
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. But, to date, the two tasks have only been studied separately. May and 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.
PMCID: PMC3624759  PMID: 21757504
crowding; wiggle; grouping; binding; Gestalt; contour integration; good continuation; alignment; object recognition; snake letter
7.  Theories of reading should predict reading speed 
The Behavioral and brain sciences  2012;35(5):297-298.
Reading speed matters in most real-world contexts, and it is a robust and easy aspect of reading to measure. Theories of reading should account for speed.
PMCID: PMC3579520  PMID: 22929907
8.  Substitution and pooling in crowding 
Unless we fixate directly on it, it is hard to see an object among other objects. This breakdown in object recognition, called crowding, severely limits peripheral vision. The effect is more severe when objects are more similar. When observers mistake the identity of a target among flanker objects, they often report a flanker. Many have taken these flanker reports as evidence of internal substitution of the target by a flanker. Here, we ask observers to identify a target letter presented in between one similar and one dissimilar flanker letter. Simple substitution takes in only one letter, which is often the target but, by unwitting mistake, is sometimes a flanker. The opposite of substitution is pooling, which takes in more than one letter. Having taken only one letter, the substitution process knows only its identity, not its similarity to the target. Thus, it must report similar and dissimilar flankers equally often. Contrary to this prediction, the similar flanker is reported much more often than the dissimilar flanker, showing that rampant flanker substitution cannot account for most flanker reports. Mixture modeling shows that simple substitution can account for, at most, about half the trials. Pooling and nonpooling (simple substitution) together include all possible models of crowding. When observers are asked to identify a crowded object, at least half of their reports are pooled, based on a combination of information from target and flankers, rather than being based on a single letter.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.3758/s13414-011-0229-0) contains supplementary material.
PMCID: PMC3283763  PMID: 22160819
Crowding; Substitution; Pooling; Mixture modeling
9.  Cue Integration in Categorical Tasks: Insights from Audio-Visual Speech Perception 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19812.
Previous cue integration studies have examined continuous perceptual dimensions (e.g., size) and have shown that human cue integration is well described by a normative model in which cues are weighted in proportion to their sensory reliability, as estimated from single-cue performance. However, this normative model may not be applicable to categorical perceptual dimensions (e.g., phonemes). In tasks defined over categorical perceptual dimensions, optimal cue weights should depend not only on the sensory variance affecting the perception of each cue but also on the environmental variance inherent in each task-relevant category. Here, we present a computational and experimental investigation of cue integration in a categorical audio-visual (articulatory) speech perception task. Our results show that human performance during audio-visual phonemic labeling is qualitatively consistent with the behavior of a Bayes-optimal observer. Specifically, we show that the participants in our task are sensitive, on a trial-by-trial basis, to the sensory uncertainty associated with the auditory and visual cues, during phonemic categorization. In addition, we show that while sensory uncertainty is a significant factor in determining cue weights, it is not the only one and participants' performance is consistent with an optimal model in which environmental, within category variability also plays a role in determining cue weights. Furthermore, we show that in our task, the sensory variability affecting the visual modality during cue-combination is not well estimated from single-cue performance, but can be estimated from multi-cue performance. The findings and computational principles described here represent a principled first step towards characterizing the mechanisms underlying human cue integration in categorical tasks.
PMCID: PMC3102664  PMID: 21637344
10.  Foreign Subtitles Help but Native-Language Subtitles Harm Foreign Speech Perception 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7785.
Understanding foreign speech is difficult, in part because of unusual mappings between sounds and words. It is known that listeners in their native language can use lexical knowledge (about how words ought to sound) to learn how to interpret unusual speech-sounds. We therefore investigated whether subtitles, which provide lexical information, support perceptual learning about foreign speech. Dutch participants, unfamiliar with Scottish and Australian regional accents of English, watched Scottish or Australian English videos with Dutch, English or no subtitles, and then repeated audio fragments of both accents. Repetition of novel fragments was worse after Dutch-subtitle exposure but better after English-subtitle exposure. Native-language subtitles appear to create lexical interference, but foreign-language subtitles assist speech learning by indicating which words (and hence sounds) are being spoken.
PMCID: PMC2775720  PMID: 19918371
11.  The uncrowded window of object recognition 
Nature neuroscience  2008;11(10):1129-1135.
It is now emerging that vision is usually limited by object spacing rather than size. The visual system recognizes an object by detecting and then combining its features. ‘Crowding’ occurs when objects are too close together and features from several objects are combined into a jumbled percept. Here, we review the explosion of studies on crowding—in grating discrimination, letter and face recognition, visual search, selective attention, and reading—and find a universal principle, the Bouma law. The critical spacing required to prevent crowding is equal for all objects, although the effect is weaker between dissimilar objects. Furthermore, critical spacing at the cortex is independent of object position, and critical spacing at the visual field is proportional to object distance from fixation. The region where object spacing exceeds critical spacing is the ‘uncrowded window’. Observers cannot recognize objects outside of this window and its size limits the speed of reading and search.
PMCID: PMC2772078  PMID: 18828191
12.  Visual Features Underlying Perceived Brightness as Revealed by Classification Images 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7432.
Along with physical luminance, the perceived brightness is known to depend on the spatial structure of the stimulus. Often it is assumed that neural computation of the brightness is based on the analysis of luminance borders of the stimulus. However, this has not been tested directly. We introduce a new variant of the psychophysical reverse-correlation or classification image method to estimate and localize the physical features of the stimuli which correlate with the perceived brightness, using a brightness-matching task. We derive classification images for the illusory Craik-O'Brien-Cornsweet stimulus and a “real” uniform step stimulus. For both stimuli, classification images reveal a positive peak at the stimulus border, along with a negative peak at the background, but are flat at the center of the stimulus, suggesting that brightness is determined solely by the border information. Features in the perceptually completed area in the Craik-O'Brien-Cornsweet do not contribute to its brightness, nor could we see low-frequency boosting, which has been offered as an explanation for the illusion. Tuning of the classification image profiles changes remarkably little with stimulus size. This supports the idea that only certain spatial scales are used for computing the brightness of a surface.
PMCID: PMC2757726  PMID: 19823590
13.  Noise masking reveals channels for second-order letters 
Vision research  2005;46(8-9):1493-1506.
We investigate the channels underlying identification of second-order letters using a critical-band masking paradigm. We find that observers use a single 1–1.5 octave-wide channel for this task. This channel’s best spatial frequency (c/letter) did not change across different noise conditions (indicating the inability of observers to switch channels to improve signal-to-noise ratio) or across different letter sizes (indicating scale invariance), for a fixed carrier frequency (c/letter). However, the channel’s best spatial frequency does change with stimulus carrier frequency (both in c/letter); one is proportional to the other. Following Majaj et al. (Majaj, N. J., Pelli, D. G., Kurshan, P., & Palomares, M. (2002). The role of spatial frequency channels in letter identification. Vision Research, 42, 1165–1184), we define “stroke frequency” as the line frequency (strokes/deg) in the luminance image. That is, for luminance-defined letters, stroke frequency is the number of lines (strokes) across each letter divided by letter width. For second-order letters, letter texture stroke frequency is the number of carrier cycles (luminance lines) within the letter ink area divided by the letter width. Unlike the nonlinear dependence found for first-order letters (implying scale-dependent processing), for second-order letters the channel frequency is half the letter texture stroke frequency (suggesting scale-invariant processing).
PMCID: PMC2760253  PMID: 16203023
Letter identification; Second-order vision; Critical-band masking; Scale invariance; Channel switching
14.  Grouping in object recognition: The role of a Gestalt law in letter identification 
Cognitive neuropsychology  2009;26(1):36-49.
The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws “prescribe for us what we are to recognize ‘as one thing’.” (Köhler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favorable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and ‘snakes in the grass’ is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, “wiggle,” to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle, and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation, and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.
PMCID: PMC2679997  PMID: 19424881
Gestalt; grouping; contour integration; good continuation; letter identification; object recognition; features; snake in the grass; snake letters; dot lattice
15.  fMRI Evidence for a Dual Process Account of the Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff in Decision-Making 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2635.
The speed and accuracy of decision-making have a well-known trading relationship: hasty decisions are more prone to errors while careful, accurate judgments take more time. Despite the pervasiveness of this speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) in decision-making, its neural basis is still unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we show that emphasizing the speed of a perceptual decision at the expense of its accuracy lowers the amount of evidence-related activity in lateral prefrontal cortex. Moreover, this speed-accuracy difference in lateral prefrontal cortex activity correlates with the speed-accuracy difference in the decision criterion metric of signal detection theory. We also show that the same instructions increase baseline activity in a dorso-medial cortical area involved in the internal generation of actions.
These findings suggest that the SAT is neurally implemented by modulating not only the amount of externally-derived sensory evidence used to make a decision, but also the internal urge to make a response. We propose that these processes combine to control the temporal dynamics of the speed-accuracy trade-off in decision-making.
PMCID: PMC2440815  PMID: 18612380
16.  Parts, Wholes, and Context in Reading: A Triple Dissociation 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(8):e680.
Research in object recognition has tried to distinguish holistic recognition from recognition by parts. One can also guess an object from its context. Words are objects, and how we recognize them is the core question of reading research. Do fast readers rely most on letter-by-letter decoding (i.e., recognition by parts), whole word shape, or sentence context? We manipulated the text to selectively knock out each source of information while sparing the others. Surprisingly, the effects of the knockouts on reading rate reveal a triple dissociation. Each reading process always contributes the same number of words per minute, regardless of whether the other processes are operating.
PMCID: PMC1924878  PMID: 17668058
17.  Measuring Information Acquisition from Sensory Input Using Automated Scoring of Natural-Language Descriptions 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93251.
Information acquisition, the gathering and interpretation of sensory information, is a basic function of mobile organisms. We describe a new method for measuring this ability in humans, using free-recall responses to sensory stimuli which are scored objectively using a “wisdom of crowds” approach. As an example, we demonstrate this metric using perception of video stimuli. Immediately after viewing a 30 s video clip, subjects responded to a prompt to give a short description of the clip in natural language. These responses were scored automatically by comparison to a dataset of responses to the same clip by normally-sighted viewers (the crowd). In this case, the normative dataset consisted of responses to 200 clips by 60 subjects who were stratified by age (range 22 to 85y) and viewed the clips in the lab, for 2,400 responses, and by 99 crowdsourced participants (age range 20 to 66y) who viewed clips in their Web browser, for 4,000 responses. We compared different algorithms for computing these similarities and found that a simple count of the words in common had the best performance. It correctly matched 75% of the lab-sourced and 95% of crowdsourced responses to their corresponding clips. We validated the measure by showing that when the amount of information in the clip was degraded using defocus lenses, the shared word score decreased across the five predetermined visual-acuity levels, demonstrating a dose-response effect (N = 15). This approach, of scoring open-ended immediate free recall of the stimulus, is applicable not only to video, but also to other situations where a measure of the information that is successfully acquired is desirable. Information acquired will be affected by stimulus quality, sensory ability, and cognitive processes, so our metric can be used to assess each of these components when the others are controlled.
PMCID: PMC3973698  PMID: 24695546
18.  Reading Direction and the Central Perceptual Span in Urdu and English 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88358.
Normal reading relies on the reader making a series of saccadic eye movements along lines of text, separated by brief fixational pauses during which visual information is acquired from a region of text. In English and other alphabetic languages read from left to right, the region from which useful information is acquired during each fixational pause is generally reported to extend further to the right of each fixation than to the left. However, the asymmetry of the perceptual span for alphabetic languages read in the opposite direction (i.e., from right to left) has received much less attention. Accordingly, in order to more fully investigate the asymmetry in the perceptual span for these languages, the present research assessed the influence of reading direction on the perceptual span for bilingual readers of Urdu and English.
Methods and Findings
Text in Urdu and English was presented either entirely as normal or in a gaze-contingent moving-window paradigm in which a region of text was displayed as normal at the reader's point of fixation and text outside this region was obscured. The windows of normal text extended symmetrically 0.5° of visual angle to the left and right of fixation, or asymmetrically by increasing the size of each window to 1.5° or 2.5° to either the left or right of fixation. When participants read English, performance for the window conditions was superior when windows extended to the right. However, when reading Urdu, performance was superior when windows extended to the left, and was essentially the reverse of that observed for English.
These findings provide a novel indication that the perceptual span is modified by the language being read to produce an asymmetry in the direction of reading and show for the first time that such an asymmetry occurs for reading Urdu.
PMCID: PMC3934859  PMID: 24586316
19.  A Method for the Evaluation of Image Quality According to the Recognition Effectiveness of Objects in the Optical Remote Sensing Image Using Machine Learning Algorithm 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86528.
Objective and effective image quality assessment (IQA) is directly related to the application of optical remote sensing images (ORSI). In this study, a new IQA method of standardizing the target object recognition rate (ORR) is presented to reflect quality. First, several quality degradation treatments with high-resolution ORSIs are implemented to model the ORSIs obtained in different imaging conditions; then, a machine learning algorithm is adopted for recognition experiments on a chosen target object to obtain ORRs; finally, a comparison with commonly used IQA indicators was performed to reveal their applicability and limitations. The results showed that the ORR of the original ORSI was calculated to be up to 81.95%, whereas the ORR ratios of the quality-degraded images to the original images were 65.52%, 64.58%, 71.21%, and 73.11%. The results show that these data can more accurately reflect the advantages and disadvantages of different images in object identification and information extraction when compared with conventional digital image assessment indexes. By recognizing the difference in image quality from the application effect perspective, using a machine learning algorithm to extract regional gray scale features of typical objects in the image for analysis, and quantitatively assessing quality of ORSI according to the difference, this method provides a new approach for objective ORSI assessment.
PMCID: PMC3904880  PMID: 24489739
20.  Evidence Accumulation in the Magnitude System 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82122.
Perceptual interferences in the estimation of quantities (time, space and numbers) have been interpreted as evidence for a common magnitude system. However, if duration estimation has appears sensitive to spatial and numerical interferences, space and number estimation tend to be resilient to temporal manipulations. These observations question the relative contribution of each quantity in the elaboration of a representation in a common mental metric. Here, we elaborated a task in which perceptual evidence accumulated over time for all tested quantities (space, time and number) in order to match the natural requirement for building a duration percept. For this, we used a bisection task. Experimental trials consisted of dynamic dots of different sizes appearing progressively on the screen. Participants were asked to judge the duration, the cumulative surface or the number of dots in the display while the two non-target dimensions varied independently. In a prospective experiment, participants were informed before the trial which dimension was the target; in a retrospective experiment, participants had to attend to all dimensions and were informed only after a given trial which dimension was the target. Surprisingly, we found that duration was resilient to spatial and numerical interferences whereas space and number estimation were affected by time. Specifically, and counter-intuitively, results revealed that longer durations lead to smaller number and space estimates whether participants knew before (prospectively) or after (retrospectively) a given trial which quantity they had to estimate. Altogether, our results support a magnitude system in which perceptual evidence for time, space and numbers integrate following Bayesian cue-combination rules.
PMCID: PMC3855382  PMID: 24339998
21.  Further Evidence of Emotional Allodynia in Unmedicated Young Adults with Major Depressive Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80507.
Recent evidence suggests that sensitivity to the emotional sequela of experimental thermal pain(measured by emotional unpleasantness) is heightened in individuals with major depressive disorder(MDD), a phenomenon we termed “emotional allodynia”. The aim of this study was to examine whether acute happy and sad mood induction alters emotional allodynia in MDD. We hypothesized that emotional allodynia will be a robust characteristic of individuals with MDD compared to healthy controls. Thus, it would remain following acute mood induction, independent of valence.
Twenty-one subjects with current MDD and 21 well-matched healthy subjects(HC) received graded brief temperature stimuli following happy and sad mood inductions procedures(MIP). All subjects rated the intensity and affect(pleasantness/unpleasantness) of each stimulus. Sensory(pain intensity) and affective(pain unpleasantness) thresholds were determined by methods of constant stimuli.
The MIPs reliably induced happy and sad mood and the resulting induced mood and subjective arousal were not different between the groups at the time of temperature stimulation. Compared to HC, MDD individuals demonstrated emotional allodynia. We found significantly decreased affective pain thresholds whereby significantly lower temperatures became unpleasant in the MDD compared to the HC group. This was not observed for the sensory pain thresholds. Within the MDD, the affective pain thresholds were significantly lower than the corresponding pain intensity thresholds, whereby non-painful temperatures were already unpleasant for the MDD irrespective of the induced mood. This was not observed for the HC groups where the affective and pain intensity thresholds were comparable.
These findings suggest that emotional allodynia may be a chronic characteristic of current MDD. Future studies should determine if emotional allodynia persists after psychological or pharmacological interventions. Finally, longitudinal work should examine whether emotional allodynia is a result of or vulnerability for depression and the role it plays in the increased susceptibility for pain complaints in this disorder.
PMCID: PMC3842925  PMID: 24312229
22.  Shadows Alter Facial Expressions of Noh Masks 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71389.
A Noh mask, worn by expert actors during performance on the Japanese traditional Noh drama, conveys various emotional expressions despite its fixed physical properties. How does the mask change its expressions? Shadows change subtly during the actual Noh drama, which plays a key role in creating elusive artistic enchantment. We here describe evidence from two experiments regarding how attached shadows of the Noh masks influence the observers’ recognition of the emotional expressions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In Experiment 1, neutral-faced Noh masks having the attached shadows of the happy/sad masks were recognized as bearing happy/sad expressions, respectively. This was true for all four types of masks each of which represented a character differing in sex and age, even though the original characteristics of the masks also greatly influenced the evaluation of emotions. Experiment 2 further revealed that frontal Noh mask images having shadows of upward/downward tilted masks were evaluated as sad/happy, respectively. This was consistent with outcomes from preceding studies using actually tilted Noh mask images.
Results from the two experiments concur that purely manipulating attached shadows of the different types of Noh masks significantly alters the emotion recognition. These findings go in line with the mysterious facial expressions observed in Western paintings, such as the elusive qualities of Mona Lisa’s smile. They also agree with the aesthetic principle of Japanese traditional art “yugen (profound grace and subtlety)”, which highly appreciates subtle emotional expressions in the darkness.
PMCID: PMC3737093  PMID: 23940748
23.  Do Chinese Readers Follow the National Standard Rules for Word Segmentation during Reading? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55440.
We conducted a preliminary study to examine whether Chinese readers’ spontaneous word segmentation processing is consistent with the national standard rules of word segmentation based on the Contemporary Chinese language word segmentation specification for information processing (CCLWSSIP). Participants were asked to segment Chinese sentences into individual words according to their prior knowledge of words. The results showed that Chinese readers did not follow the segmentation rules of the CCLWSSIP, and their word segmentation processing was influenced by the syntactic categories of consecutive words. In many cases, the participants did not consider the auxiliary words, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, verbs, numerals and quantifiers as single word units. Generally, Chinese readers tended to combine function words with content words to form single word units, indicating they were inclined to chunk single words into large information units during word segmentation. Additionally, the “overextension of monosyllable words” hypothesis was tested and it might need to be corrected to some degree, implying that word length have an implicit influence on Chinese readers’ segmentation processing. Implications of these results for models of word recognition and eye movement control are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3568123  PMID: 23408981
24.  Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53285.
We tested whether eye color influences perception of trustworthiness. Facial photographs of 40 female and 40 male students were rated for perceived trustworthiness. Eye color had a significant effect, the brown-eyed faces being perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones. Geometric morphometrics, however, revealed significant correlations between eye color and face shape. Thus, face shape likewise had a significant effect on perceived trustworthiness but only for male faces, the effect for female faces not being significant. To determine whether perception of trustworthiness was being influenced primarily by eye color or by face shape, we recolored the eyes on the same male facial photos and repeated the test procedure. Eye color now had no effect on perceived trustworthiness. We concluded that although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes.
PMCID: PMC3541379  PMID: 23326406

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