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Set-size effects for spatial frequency change and discrimination in multiple targets

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For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

In visual search tasks with a near-threshold target amongst distracters, log detection thresholds rise in proportion to the log of the number of stimuli. Previous research has shown a very steep slope for this set-size effect where the target is a change in spatial frequency (SF) across an ISI, suggesting a low-level explanation for 'change blindness (Wright et al., 2000). Here, we analyse stimulus and task variables in order to determine the contributions of stimulus detection and attention processes. Stimuli consisted of two 150 ms frames each containing 1 to 4 Gabor targets, with an ISI of 250 ms. In a 2AFC detection task with uniform distracters, slopes of 0.23-0.52 were found, in line with visual search results. 2AFC SF discrimination tasks gave slopes of 0.68, 0.69 with homogeneous distracters and 0.76-0.96 with inhomogeneous distracters, consistent with averaging of stimuli within a frame. If the distracters were also made to change across ISI, averaging was impossible, and focal attention was required to solve the discrimination. This always gave set-size slopes > 1. It is concluded that, under conditions where a stimulus array can be analysed globally, change detection performance is limited by signal detection mechanisms, rather than limited capacity attention or memory mechanisms. However, where this is prevented, for example by changing more than one item, limitations due to attention or memory produce an even steeper set-size effect.

10.1163/15685680252875147
/content/journals/10.1163/15685680252875147
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/content/journals/10.1163/15685680252875147
2002-04-01
2016-12-05

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