Vernier acuity is a type of visual acuity – more precisely of hyperacuity – that measures the ability to discern a disalignment among two line segments or gratings. A subject's vernier (IPA: /ˈvɜːrniər/ or /ˈvɜːniə/) acuity is the smallest visible offset between the stimuli that can be detected. Because the disalignments are often much smaller than the diameter and spacing of retinal receptors, vernier acuity requires neural processing and "pooling" to detect it. Because vernier acuity exceeds acuity by far, the phenomenon has been termed hyperacuity. Vernier acuity develops rapidly during infancy and continues to slowly develop throughout childhood. At approximately three to twelve months old, it surpasses grating acuity in foveal vision in humans. However, vernier acuity decreases more quickly than grating acuity in peripheral vision. Vernier acuity was first explained by Ewald Hering in 1899, based on earlier data by Alfred Volkmann in 1863 and results by Ernst Anton Wülfing in 1892.
Vernier acuity is resistant to defocus, motion, and luminance, but is subject to practice effects and changes in attention. After training, observers' threshold has been shown to improve as much as 6 fold.
- by Gerald Westheimer
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- Link to Westheimer (1975)
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