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Discrete and continuous modes of curved-line discrimination controlled by effective stimulus duration

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

In previous experiments two extreme modes of visual discrimination performance have been investigated by measuring small differences in pattern shape at points along a continuum of pattern shapes. These two modes, associated with discrete and continuous encoding processes, were obtained by simultaneously manipulating the number of pattern components in the display and the effective duration of the display. In this experiment, discrimination performance was measured for a fixed number of pattern components, namely three, and variable display time course. The stimuli used were curved lines drawn from a continuum with curvature parameter s. There were three stimulus time courses: (1) 2-s stimulus display, (2) 100-ms stimulus display, and (3) 100-ms stimulus display followed by a post-stimulus mask. Discrimination performance declined smoothly and monotonically with s for (1), but varied non-monotonically with s revealing a central peak for (3). Performance for (2) was intermediate between that for (1) and that for (3). A reduction in effective stimulus duration alone was thus sufficient to cause a transition from continuous to discrete modes of discrimination performance, a result which may be compatible with an explanation of variable discrimination modes based on a method of successive internal approximations of the stimulus.

Affiliations: 1: Istituto di Fisica Superiore, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy, Department of Communication and Neuroscience, University of Keele, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK; 2: Department of Communication and Neuroscience, University of Keele, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK


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