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Psychological Review - Vol 124, Iss 4

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Psychological Review Psychological Review publishes articles that make important theoretical contributions to any area of scientific psychology.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • From anomalies to forecasts: Toward a descriptive model of decisions under risk, under ambiguity, and from experience.
    Experimental studies of choice behavior document distinct, and sometimes contradictory, deviations from maximization. For example, people tend to overweight rare events in 1-shot decisions under risk, and to exhibit the opposite bias when they rely on past experience. The common explanations of these results assume that the contradicting anomalies reflect situation-specific processes that involve the weighting of subjective values and the use of simple heuristics. The current article analyzes 14 choice anomalies that have been described by different models, including the Allais, St. Petersburg, and Ellsberg paradoxes, and the reflection effect. Next, it uses a choice prediction competition methodology to clarify the interaction between the different anomalies. It focuses on decisions under risk (known payoff distributions) and under ambiguity (unknown probabilities), with and without feedback concerning the outcomes of past choices. The results demonstrate that it is not necessary to assume situation-specific processes. The distinct anomalies can be captured by assuming high sensitivity to the expected return and 4 additional tendencies: pessimism, bias toward equal weighting, sensitivity to payoff sign, and an effort to minimize the probability of immediate regret. Importantly, feedback increases sensitivity to probability of regret. Simple abstractions of these assumptions, variants of the model Best Estimate and Sampling Tools (BEAST), allow surprisingly accurate ex ante predictions of behavior. Unlike the popular models, BEAST does not assume subjective weighting functions or cognitive shortcuts. Rather, it assumes the use of sampling tools and reliance on small samples, in addition to the estimation of the expected values. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Bayesian models of cognition revisited: Setting optimality aside and letting data drive psychological theory.
    Recent debates in the psychological literature have raised questions about the assumptions that underpin Bayesian models of cognition and what inferences they license about human cognition. In this paper we revisit this topic, arguing that there are 2 qualitatively different ways in which a Bayesian model could be constructed. The most common approach uses a Bayesian model as a normative standard upon which to license a claim about optimality. In the alternative approach, a descriptive Bayesian model need not correspond to any claim that the underlying cognition is optimal or rational, and is used solely as a tool for instantiating a substantive psychological theory. We present 3 case studies in which these 2 perspectives lead to different computational models and license different conclusions about human cognition. We demonstrate how the descriptive Bayesian approach can be used to answer different sorts of questions than the optimal approach, especially when combined with principled tools for model evaluation and model selection. More generally we argue for the importance of making a clear distinction between the 2 perspectives. Considerable confusion results when descriptive models and optimal models are conflated, and if Bayesians are to avoid contributing to this confusion it is important to avoid making normative claims when none are intended. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Linking process and measurement models of recognition-based decisions.
    When making inferences about pairs of objects, one of which is recognized and the other is not, the recognition heuristic states that participants choose the recognized object in a noncompensatory way without considering any further knowledge. In contrast, information-integration theories such as parallel constraint satisfaction (PCS) assume that recognition is merely one of many cues that is integrated with further knowledge in a compensatory way. To test both process models against each other without manipulating recognition or further knowledge, we include response times into the r-model, a popular multinomial processing tree model for memory-based decisions. Essentially, this response-time-extended r-model allows to test a crucial prediction of PCS, namely, that the integration of recognition-congruent knowledge leads to faster decisions compared to the consideration of recognition only—even though more information is processed. In contrast, decisions due to recognition-heuristic use are predicted to be faster than decisions affected by any further knowledge. Using the classical German-cities example, simulations show that the novel measurement model discriminates between both process models based on choices, decision times, and recognition judgments only. In a reanalysis of 29 data sets including more than 400,000 individual trials, noncompensatory choices of the recognized option were estimated to be slower than choices due to recognition-congruent knowledge. This corroborates the parallel information-integration account of memory-based decisions, according to which decisions become faster when the coherence of the available information increases. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A neural interpretation of exemplar theory.
    Exemplar theory assumes that people categorize a novel object by comparing its similarity to the memory representations of all previous exemplars from each relevant category. Exemplar theory has been the most prominent cognitive theory of categorization for more than 30 years. Despite its considerable success in providing good quantitative fits to a wide variety of accuracy data, it has never had a detailed neurobiological interpretation. This article proposes a neural interpretation of exemplar theory in which category learning is mediated by synaptic plasticity at cortical-striatal synapses. In this model, categorization training does not create new memory representations, rather it alters connectivity between striatal neurons and neurons in sensory association cortex. The new model makes identical quantitative predictions as exemplar theory, yet it can account for many empirical phenomena that are either incompatible with or outside the scope of the cognitive version of exemplar theory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Neural dynamics of grouping and segmentation explain properties of visual crowding.
    Investigations of visual crowding, where a target is difficult to identify because of flanking elements, has largely used a theoretical perspective based on local interactions where flanking elements pool with or substitute for properties of the target. This successful theoretical approach has motivated a wide variety of empirical investigations to identify mechanisms that cause crowding, and it has suggested practical applications to mitigate crowding effects. However, this theoretical approach has been unable to account for a parallel set of findings that crowding is influenced by long-range perceptual grouping effects. When the target and flankers are perceived as part of separate visual groups, crowding tends to be quite weak. Here, we describe how theoretical mechanisms for grouping and segmentation in cortical neural circuits can account for a wide variety of these long-range grouping effects. Building on previous work, we explain how crowding occurs in the model and explain how grouping in the model involves connected boundary signals that represent a key aspect of visual information. We then introduce new circuits that allow nonspecific top-down selection signals to flow along connected boundaries or within a surface contained by boundaries and thereby induce a segmentation that can separate the visual information corresponding to the flankers from the visual information corresponding to the target. When such segmentation occurs, crowding is shown to be weak. We compare the model’s behavior to 5 sets of experimental findings on visual crowding and show that the model does a good job explaining the key empirical findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Likelihood-based parameter estimation and comparison of dynamical cognitive models.
    Dynamical models of cognition play an increasingly important role in driving theoretical and experimental research in psychology. Therefore, parameter estimation, model analysis and comparison of dynamical models are of essential importance. In this article, we propose a maximum likelihood approach for model analysis in a fully dynamical framework that includes time-ordered experimental data. Our methods can be applied to dynamical models for the prediction of discrete behavior (e.g., movement onsets); in particular, we use a dynamical model of saccade generation in scene viewing as a case study for our approach. For this model, the likelihood function can be computed directly by numerical simulation, which enables more efficient parameter estimation including Bayesian inference to obtain reliable estimates and corresponding credible intervals. Using hierarchical models inference is even possible for individual observers. Furthermore, our likelihood approach can be used to compare different models. In our example, the dynamical framework is shown to outperform nondynamical statistical models. Additionally, the likelihood based evaluation differentiates model variants, which produced indistinguishable predictions on hitherto used statistics. Our results indicate that the likelihood approach is a promising framework for dynamical cognitive models. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A critical examination of the research and theoretical underpinnings discussed in Thomson, Besner, and Smilek (2016).
    Thomson, Besner, and Smilek (2016) propose that performance decrements associated with sustained attention are not consistently the result of a decline in perceptual sensitivity. Thomson et al. (2016) present empirical evidence using a novel, nontraditional vigilance task to support their assumptions. However, in the present rebuttal, we argue that the authors have not only have misinterpreted previous research in sustained attention, but also have misapplied those interpretations to their study. Thomson et al. have also neglected key elements of the literature in their argument, including research on expectancy theory and individual differences on vigilance performance. Furthermore, Thomson and colleagues implement an experimental paradigm that is not appropriate for evaluating sensitivity and bias changes in vigilance tasks. Finally, their analyses do not capture the manner in which changes in response bias and sensitivity can manifest in signal detection theory. We discuss the theoretical and experimental issues contained in Thomson et al. (2016) and propose suggestions for future vigilance research in this area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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