Surround-masking affects visual estimation ability Academic Article uri icon


  • Visual estimation of numerosity involves the discrimination of magnitude between two distributions or perceptual sets that vary in number of elements. How performance on such estimation depends on peripheral sensory stimulation is unclear, even in typically developing adults. Here, we varied the central and surround contrast of stimuli that comprised a visual estimation task in order to determine whether mechanisms involved with the removal of unessential visual input functionally contributes toward number acuity. The visual estimation judgments of typically developed adults were significantly impaired for high but not low contrast surround stimulus conditions. The center and surround contrasts of the stimuli also differentially affected the accuracy of numerosity estimation depending on whether fewer or more dots were presented. Remarkably, observers demonstrated the highest mean percentage accuracy across stimulus conditions in the discrimination of more elements when the surround contrast was low and the background luminance of the central region containing the elements was dark (black center). Conversely, accuracy was severely impaired during the discrimination of fewer elements when the surround contrast was high and the background luminance of the central region was mid level (gray center). These findings suggest that estimation ability is functionally related to the quality of low-order filtration of unessential visual information. These surround masking results may help understanding of the poor visual estimation ability commonly observed in developmental dyscalculia.

publication date

  • 2017