Lead researcher Daniel Fiset, a psychologist at the university, used the "Bubbles" technique in his experiments, wherein randomly sampled areas of a letter were shown to those participating in the study.
Describing the experiments in the journal Psychological Science, he revealed that the team's aim was to evaluate which areas of each of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet were crucial for letter recognition.
The study showed that the most important features for identifying both upper and lower case letter were the points where the letters ended, also known as line terminations, according to the researcher.
The presence of horizontal lines in the letters was the second most important feature for letter recognition, the researcher added.
Daniel's team developed an "ideal-observer" model using all of the visual information available for letter identification, with a view to comparing the human volunteers' use of letter features with optimal use of the provided information.
The researchers observed that that the most useful feature of letters for the ideal observer were vertical lines and curves opening up, and not line terminations.
The authors note that the human visual system is believed to be specialized in the processing of line terminations, which enables people to recognize and distinguish surrounding objects.
According to them, the great importance of terminations for letter recognition results from an interaction between the relative usefulness of this feature and a strong natural tendency of the human visual system to encode it.
The researchers are of the opinion that their observations may be helpful in creating new fonts that will lead to improved and faster letter recognition.