Increasing pupil size is associated with improved detection performance in the periphery

Lisa Eberhardt*, C. Strauch, Tim Hartmann, Anke Huckauf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Visible light enters our body via the pupil. By changing its size, the pupil shapes visual input. Small apertures increase the resolution of high spatial frequencies, thus allowing discrimination of fine details. Large apertures, in contrast, provide a better signal-to-noise ratio, because more light can enter the eye. This should lead to better detection performance of peripheral stimuli. Experiment 1 shows that the effect can reliably be demonstrated even in a less controlled online setting. In Experiment 2, pupil size was measured in a laboratory using an eye tracker. The findings replicate findings showing that large pupils provide an advantage for peripheral detection of faint stimuli. Moreover, not only pupil size during information intake in the current trial n, but also its interaction with pupil size preceding information intake, i.e., in trial n-1, predicted performance. This suggests that in addition to absolute pupil size, the extent of pupillary change provides a mechanism to modulate perceptual functions. The results are discussed in terms of low-level sensory as well as higher-level arousal-driven changes in stimulus processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-149
JournalAttention, perception, & psychophysics
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


  • Detection performance
  • Peripheral vision
  • Pupil size
  • Pupillometry


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