Vertical meridian asymmetry in spatial resolution: Visual and attentional factors

Cigdem P. Talgar, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated whether spatial resolution would be the same in the lower and upper halves of the vertical meridian (VM) of our visual field and whether attention would affect them differentially. It has been reported that (1) attending to the target's location improves performance in a texture segregation task when the observer's spatial resolution is too low (peripheral locations) but impairs it when resolution is already too high (central locations) for the task. This finding indicates an enhanced spatial resolution at the attended location (Yeshurun & Carrasco, 1998, 2000), (2) observers' contrast sensitivity is higher in the lower than in the upper VM, a phenomenon known as vertical meridian asymmetry (VMA), an asymmetry determined by visual rather than by attentional factors (Carrasco, Talgar, & Cameron, 2001). In the present texture segregation task, performance was assessed under neutral- and peripheralcue conditions. Transient covert attention was systematically manipulated by using a peripheral cue that indicated the target's location and its onset. Observers reported the interval containing a target patch appearing at one of a number of eccentricities in a large texture pattern along the VM. We found that (1) performance peaked at farther eccentricities in the lower than in the upper visual VM, indicating that resolution was higher in the lower half, and (2) the peripheral cue affected performance along the VM uniformly, indicating that the degree of enhanced resolution brought about by transient attention was constant along the VM. Thus, we conclude that the VMA for spatial resolution is determined by visual, not transient covert attentional, constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-722
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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