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The information available in brief visual presentations. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 74, 1-29

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Abstract

How much can be seen in a single brief exposure? This is an important problem because our normal mode of seeing greatly resembles a sequence of brief exposures. In this report, the following experiments were conducted to study quantitatively the information that becomes available to an observer following a brief exposure. Lettered stimuli were chosen because these contain a relatively large amount of information per item and because these are the kind of stimuli that have been used by most previous investigators. The first two experiments are essentially control experiments; they attempt to confirm that immediate-memory for letters is independent of the parameters of stimulation, that it is an individual characteristic. In the third experiment the number of letters available immediately after the extinction of the stimulus is determined by means of a sampling (partial report) procedure described. The fourth experiment explores decay of available information with time. The fifth experiment examines some exposure parameters. In the sixth experiment a technique which fails to demonstrate a large amount of available information is investigated. The seventh experiment deals with the role of the historically important variable: order of report. It was found that each observer was able to report only a limited number of symbols correctly. For exposure durations from 15 to 500 msec, the average was slightly over four letters; stimuli having four or fewer letters were reported correctly nearly 100% of the time. It is also concluded that the high accuracy of partial report observed in the experiments does not depend on the order of report or on the position of letters on the stimulus, but rather it is shown to depend on the ability of the observer to read a visual image that persists for a fraction of a second after the stimulus has been turned off.
... In the last century, there were some attempts to test the discriminability of experience [59,60] in a manner that is compatible with our concept of informativeness. The most famous study along this line is Sperling's partial report paradigm [61]. Here, we will expound a conceptual parallel and distinctions between Sperling's and our study. ...
... Under this condition, our participants demonstrated highly accurate discrimination between what they saw from what they did not. This provides evidence that previous estimation of limited information capacity [59][60][61] might have resulted from the experimental confounds of stimulus repetition [63,72], combined with the use of artificial stimuli [73]. With ecologically valid stimuli and minimal prospective memory interference, information capacity of a moment of visual experience is much bigger than previously estimated. ...
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Upon a brief glance, how well can we differentiate what we see from what we do not? Previous studies answered this question as ‘poorly’. This is in stark contrast with our everyday experience. Here, we consider the possibility that previous restriction in stimulus variability and response alternatives reduced what participants could express from what they consciously experienced. We introduce a novel massive report paradigm that probes the ability to differentiate what we see from what we do not. In each trial, participants viewed a natural scene image and judged whether a small image patch was a part of the original image. To examine the limit of discriminability, we also included subtler changes in the image as modification of objects. Neither the images nor patches were repeated per participant. Our results showed that participants were highly accurate (accuracy greater than 80%) in differentiating patches from the viewed images from patches that are not present. Additionally, the differentiation between original and modified objects was influenced by object sizes and/or the congruence between objects and the scene gists. Our massive report paradigm opens a door to quantitatively measure the limit of immense informativeness of a moment of consciousness.
... With the increasing number of experimental studies on spatial memory, experiments using the change perception paradigm all have three phases: memory, interval, and monitoring [49]. However, the paradigm form of experimental design has multiple variations to study participants' different choices of color, shape, and location between memory items and stimulus items, in order to determine participants' spatial memory abilities [50,51]. ...
Article
Objective: To investigate the intervention effect of orienteering exercises on the spatial memory ability of college students of different genders and its underlying mechanism. Methods: Forty-eight college students were randomly screened into experimental and control groups, 12 each of male and female, by SBSOD scale. The effects of 12 weeks of orienteering exercises on the behavioral performance and brain activation patterns during the spatial memory tasks of college students of different genders were explored by behavioral tests and the fNIRS technique. Results: After the orienteering exercise intervention in the experimental group, the male students had significantly greater correct rates and significantly lower reaction times than the female students; left and right dorsolateral prefrontal activation was significantly reduced in the experimental group, and the male students had a significantly greater reduction in the left dorsolateral prefrontal than the female students. The degree of activation in the left and right dorsolateral prefrontals of the male students and the right dorsolateral prefrontals of the female students correlated significantly with behavioral performance, and the functional coupling between the brain regions showed an enhanced performance. Discussion: Orienteering exercises improve the spatial memory ability of college students, more significantly in male students. The degree of activation of different brain regions correlated with behavioral performance and showed some gender differences.
... Second, although a lack of awareness for a stimulus can lead to poor or chance-level performance, poor performance itself cannot be taken as evidence for a lack of awareness. This second dissociation is clear when comparing the "full-report" assessment of iconic memory (in which participants perform poorly when asked to report all letters from a briefly presented letter array) and the "partial-report" assessment (in which participants accurately report a subset of letters from the array; Sperling, 1960). At face value, the full-report performance suggests that participants had limited awareness of the letters, but the partial-report indicates they were aware of all the letters but could only access some of them before the representation faded. ...
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People tend to think they are not susceptible to change blindness and overestimate their ability to detect salient changes in scenes. Yet, despite their overconfidence, are individuals aware of and able to assess the relative difficulty of such changes? Here, we investigated whether participants' judgements of their ability to detect changes predicted their own change blindness. In Experiment 1, participants completed a standard change blindness task in which they viewed alternating versions of scenes until they detected what changed between the versions. Then, 6 to 7 months later, the same participants viewed the two versions and rated how likely they would be to spot the change. We found that changes rated as more likely to be spotted were detected faster than changes rated as more unlikely to be spotted. These metacognitive judgements continued to predict change blindness when accounting for low-level image properties (i.e., change size and eccentricity). In Experiment 2, we used likelihood ratings from a new group of participants to predict change blindness durations from Experiment 1. We found that there was no advantage to using participants' own metacognitive judgements compared to those from the new group to predict change blindness duration, suggesting that differences among images (rather among individuals) contribute the most to change blindness. Finally, in Experiment 3, we investigated whether metacognitive judgements are based on the semantic similarity between the versions of the scene. One group of participants described the two versions of the scenes, and an independent group rated the similarity between the descriptions. We found that changes rated as more similar were judged as being more difficult to detect than changes rated as less similar; however, semantic similarity (based on linguistic descriptions) did not predict change blindness. These findings reveal that (1) people can rate the relative difficulty of different changes and predict change blindness for different images and (2) metacognitive judgements of change detection likelihood are not fully explained by low-level and semantic image properties.
... Specifically, Hardman et al. (2017) suggested that only a single continuous representation and two categorical representations can be maintained at the same time (see also Zhou et al., 2021 for converging evidence). In the current study, it is likely that at very short retention intervals (100 and 500 msec), visual information was still stored largely in iconic memory (Sperling, 1960; or perhaps in 'fragile working memory'; Sligte et al., 2008), which has a high capacity and relies on early visual cortex (Teeuwen et al., 2021); at this point, there was little (but some) categorical bias. After longer retention intervals (1000 and 2000 msec), visual information was likely transferred to VWM (Bradley & Pearson, 2012), which was has been suggested (as mentioned above) to have a capacity limit of one continuous representation and two categorical representations; at this point, categorical bias became more pronounced, especially for higher memory loads. ...
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Visual information can be stored as continuous as well as categorical representations in visual working memory (VWM) to guide subsequent behavior. Yet it is still unclear what determines whether VWM is represented as continuous or categorical information, or as a mix of both. Recent studies have shown that color VWM representations adjust flexibly depending on the number of memory items as well as the duration that these items need to be maintained for. The current study aims to extend and replicate these crucial effects. In a delayed estimation task, participants memorized one to four colored objects presented at different spatial locations, followed by a delay of 100, 500, 1,000, or 2,000 ms. Next, a probe indicated the location of the color that participants needed to report. We measured the extent to which responses were biased in the direction of prototypical colors. Crucially, we implemented this categorical bias in an extension to the classic mixture model (Zhang & Luck 2008) in which the center of the error distribution is a crucial parameter that characterizes the extent to which VWM is biased by color categories. We found that VWM shows a strong categorical bias in all cases, and that this bias increases with increasing memory load; strikingly, this effect of memory load on categorical bias is stronger at longer intervals (1,000 ms or longer), as compared to shorter intervals, yet it peaks for intermediate memory loads as opposed to the highest memory load. Overall, our results suggest that when visual information needs to be maintained for one second or longer, VWM becomes more reliant on categorical representations as memory load increases.
... It suggests that the visual stimulus was shortly stored as a whole (and therefore in iconic format), for the subject to be able to report any row of letters. (Sperling, 1960). ...
Thesis
Scientists try to uncover the mental mechanisms that allow us to see, feel, touch, etc. They are helped by philosophers, who elaborate characterizations of perception, of its function and nature. Yet, perception, as a scientific object, is quite vague. In particular, perception is hard to circumscribe in the architecture of the mind. The aim of this dissertation is to shed light on the kind of scientific object perception is, through a philosophical work based on analytical philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and on current philosophical developments concerning perception. How could we know that a specific phenomenon is a perceptual one? How does the scientist know that she is studying perception and not another activity of the mind? What are the boundaries of perception? These questions have direct implications in everyday scientific practice, especially in the interpretation of experimental results. They also pertain to philosophical debates such as the cognitive penetrability of perception. In this dissertation, I first explore the usual method for determining the boundaries of perception, based on the idea that perception is a natural kind of mental states. I then elaborate another strategy called "conceptual engineering". In this strategy, I study perception as a scientific concept. I show that there are at least four different concepts of perception. I argue in favor of conceptual pluralism, i.e. that these concepts of perception are all legitimate. This pluralism is part of a classical process commonly undergone by scientific concepts - conceptual fragmentation – in which a scientific concept is fragmented into several sub-concepts. In a third part, I explore metaphysical foundations for the boundaries of perceptions. I show that there are several alternative ways to metaphysically ground the boundaries of perception. The choice between them influence how empirical results are interpreted. Finally, I argue that the concept of perception should be today considered an organizational concept in cognitive science, whose main function is to guide, coordinate and integrate interdisciplinary research about perception. Recognizing this specific place of the concept perception in scientific and philosophical investigations about the mind would contribute to enrich discussions, as well as to avoid ill-posed questions and fruitless debates.
Article
Tests of visuospatial memory following short (<1 s) and medium (1 to 30 s) delays have revealed characteristically different patterns of behavior in humans. These data have been interpreted as evidence for different memory systems operating during short (iconic memory) and long delays (working memory). Leising et al. (2019, Behavioural Processes, 169, Article 103957 ) found evidence for both systems in pigeons and humans completing a location change-detection task using a visual mask that disrupted accuracy following a short (100 ms), but not a long (1,000 ms) delay. Another common finding is that adding to-be-remembered items should disrupt accuracy after a long, but not short, delay. Experiments 1a and 1b reported this memory system crossover effect in pigeons and people, respectively, tested on location change detection with delays of 0, 100, and 1,000 ms and displays of two to 16 items. Experiments 2a and 2b reported that the color of the items had little (pigeons) or no (humans) effect on change-detection accuracy. Pigeons tested in Experiment 3 with longer delays (2,000, 4,000, and 8,000 ms) and large set sizes demonstrated the crossover effect with most displays but did not demonstrate an abrupt drop in accuracy characteristic of iconic memory. In Experiment 4, accuracy with novel types of change (color, shape, and size) was better after a 0-ms delay and above-chance levels on color and shape trials. These data demonstrate the memory system crossover effect in both humans and pigeons and expand our knowledge of the properties of memory systems across species.
Chapter
This chapter addresses Chalmers’ hard and easy problems of consciousness. In the first part of the chapter, priming and blindsight are discussed, as instances of easy-problem ‘consciousness’ that are actually not conscious. Cognitive processes (particularly, those targeted in cognitive dissonance studies and decision-making studies) are also shown to be dissociated from consciousness. The second part of the chapter concerns ‘the hard problem’ of consciousness. This problem is often approached in much the same way the easy problems are approached. However, it is more plausible to account for perceptual awareness in terms of whether attention is being paid to perceptions, rather than whether or not perceptions are conscious. Therefore, such research sheds little light on either the easy or the hard problems of consciousness.
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According to unconscious perception hypothesis (UP), mental states of the same fundamental kind as ordinary conscious seeing can occur unconsciously. The proponents of UP often support it with empirical evidence for a more specific hypothesis, according to which colours can be seen unconsciously (UPC). However, UPC is a general claim that admits of many interpretations. The main aim of this paper is to determine which of them is the most plausible. To this end, I investigate how adopting various conceptions of colour and perceptual phenomenal character affects UPC’s resilience to objections. This brings me to the conclusion that the most plausible reading of UPC is the one according to which the phenomenal character of colour perception (i) is constituted by colours qua primitive mind-independent qualities of the environment and (ii) is not essentially tied to consciousness. My conclusion not only identifies the most plausible interpretation of UPC, but also highlights and supports an unorthodox version of the relational theory of perception, which is a perfectly viable yet so far overlooked stance in the debate about unconscious perception.
Article
Some recent surveys of the modern philosophical debate over the existence of non‐conceptual perceptual content have concluded that the distinction between conceptual and non‐conceptual representations is largely terminological. To remedy this terminological impasse, Robert Hanna and Monima Chadha claim that non‐conceptualists must defend an essentialist view of non‐conceptual content, according to which perceptual states have representational content whose structure and psychological function are necessarily distinct from that of conceptual states. Hanna and Chadha additionally suggest that non‐conceptualists should go “back to Kant” to find the most defensible version of an essentialist content non‐conceptualism. I propose instead that non‐conceptualists go back even further to the seventh‐century Indian Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti, so that they may not only find historical precedent for an essentialist content view, but also some better arguments in its favor. This essay reconstructs Dharmakīrti's essentialist non‐conceptualism about the contents of conscious sensory representations and the refined theory of conceptualization that it presupposes. In particular, I examine his arguments from the proprietary phenomenology of sensory experience, the cognitive encapsulation of sensory processing, as well as the iconic format of sensory representations, and assess the strength of these arguments relative to their modern counterparts.
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