Sensory factors limiting horizontal and vertical visual span for letter recognition

Deyue Yu, Gordon E. Legge, Gunther Wagoner, Susana T.L. Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Reading speed for English text is slower for text oriented vertically than horizontally. Yu, Park, Gerold, and Legge (2010) showed that slower reading of vertical text is associated with a smaller visual span (the number of letters recognized with high accuracy without moving the eyes). Three possible sensory determinants of the size of the visual span are: resolution (decreasing acuity at letter positions farther from the midline), mislocations (uncertainty about the relative position of letters in strings), and crowding (interference fromflanking letters in recognizing the target letter). In the present study, we asked which of these factors is most important in determining the size of the visual span, and likely in turn in determining the horizontal/vertical difference in reading when letter size is above the critical print size for reading. We used a decomposition analysis to represent constraints due to resolution, mislocations, and crowding as losses in information transmitted (in bits) about letter recognition. Across vertical and horizontal conditions, crowding accounted for 75% of the loss in information, mislocations accounted for 19% of the loss, and declining acuity away from fixation accounted for only 6%. We conclude that crowding is the major factor limiting the size of the visual span, and that the horizontal/vertical difference in the size of the visual span is associated with stronger crowding along the vertical midline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NIH grant EY002934 (GEL) and EY012810 (STLC) supported this research.


  • Acuity
  • Crowding
  • Mislocation
  • Reading
  • Vertical text
  • Visual span


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