PublicationsSpatial Frequency Discrimination
Social interaction starts with perception of the world around you. This study investigated two fundamental issues regarding the development of discrimination of higher spatial frequencies, which are important building blocks of perception. Firstly, it mapped the typical developmental trajectory of higher spatial frequency discrimination. Secondly, it developed and validated a novel design that could be applied to improve atypically developed vision. Specifically, this study examined the effect of age and reward on task performance, practice effects, and motivation (i.e., number of trials completed) in a higher spatial frequency (reference frequency: 6 cycles per degree) discrimination task. We measured discrimination thresholds in children aged between 7 to 12 years and adults (N = 135). Reward was manipulated by presenting either positive reinforcement or punishment. Results showed a decrease in discrimination thresholds with age, thus revealing that higher spatial frequency discrimination continues to develop after 12 years of age. This development continues longer than previously shown for discrimination of lower spatial frequencies. Moreover, thresholds decreased during the run, indicating that discrimination abilities improved. Reward did not affect performance or improvement. However, in an additional group of 5-6 year-olds (N = 28) punishments resulted in the completion of fewer trials compared to reinforcements. In both reward conditions children aged 5-6 years completed only a fourth or half of the run (64 to 128 out of 254 trials) and were not motivated to continue. The design thus needs further adaptation before it can be applied to this age group. Children aged 7-12 years and adults completed the run, suggesting that the design is successful and motivating for children aged 7-12 years. This study thus presents developmental differences in higher spatial frequency discrimination thresholds. Furthermore, it presents a design that can be used in future developmental studies that require multiple stimulus presentations such as visual perceptual learning.