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Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 146, Iss 11

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: General The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General publishes articles describing empirical work that bridges the traditional interests of two or more communities of psychology.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • A relative bilingual advantage in switching with preparation: Nuanced explorations of the proposed association between bilingualism and task switching.
    Bilingual language switching may increase general switching efficiency, but the evidence on this question is mixed. We hypothesized that group differences in switching might be stronger at a long cue–target interval (CTI), which may better tap general switching abilities (Yehene & Meiran, 2007). Eighty Spanish–English bilinguals and 80 monolinguals completed a color-shape switching task, and an analogous language-switching task, varying CTI (short vs. long) in both tasks. With longer preparation time (long CTI), bilinguals exhibited significantly smaller task-switching costs than monolinguals, but only in the first half of trials. Group differences diminished with practice, though practice benefitted RTs on short CTI trials more than long, and bilinguals committed fewer errors with practice especially at short CTI. Groups did not differ in mixing costs; however, across CTIs and tasks, bilinguals and monolinguals alike, exhibited robust correlations between mixing costs, but not between switching costs. These results confirm an association between bilingualism and switching efficiency that may be magnified with manipulations that target general switching ability (or could reflect better ability to take advantage of preparation time). However, practice effects observed within experimental paradigms, and between task correlations in costs, may reflect cognitive mechanisms specific to laboratory tasks much more than associations with general switching ability and executive control mechanisms—for which more reliable and valid measures can hopefully be developed in future work. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The nature of short-term consolidation in visual working memory.
    Short-term consolidation is the process by which stable working memory representations are created. This process is fundamental to cognition yet poorly understood. The present work examines short-term consolidation using a Bayesian hierarchical model of visual working memory recall to determine the underlying processes at work. Our results show that consolidation functions largely through changing the proportion of memory items successfully maintained until test. Although there was some evidence that consolidation affects representational precision, this change was modest and could not account for the bulk of the consolidation effect on memory performance. The time course of the consolidation function and selective influence of consolidation on specific serial positions strongly indicates that short-term consolidation induces an attentional blink. The blink leads to deficits in memory for the immediately following item when time pressure is introduced. Temporal distinctiveness accounts of the consolidation process are tested and ruled out. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Children understand that agents maximize expected utilities.
    A growing set of studies suggests that our ability to infer, and reason about, mental states is supported by the assumption that agents maximize utilities—the rewards they attain minus the costs they incur. This assumption enables observers to work backward from agents’ observed behavior to their underlying beliefs, preferences, and competencies. Intuitively, however, agents may have incomplete, uncertain, or wrong beliefs about what they want. More formally, agents try to maximize their expected utilities. This understanding is crucial when reasoning about others’ behavior: It dictates when actions reveal preferences, and it makes predictions about the stability of behavior over time. In a set of 7 experiments we show that 4- and 5-year-olds understand that agents try to maximize expected utilities, and that these responses cannot be explained by simpler accounts. In particular, these results suggest a modification to the standard belief/desire model of intuitive psychology. Children do not treat beliefs and desires as independent; rather, they recognize that agents have beliefs about their own desires and that this has consequences for the interpretation of agents’ actions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Examining overlap in behavioral and neural representations of morals, facts, and preferences.
    Metaethical judgments refer to judgments about the information expressed by moral claims. Moral objectivists generally believe that moral claims are akin to facts, whereas moral subjectivists generally believe that moral claims are more akin to preferences. Evidence from developmental and social psychology has generally favored an objectivist view; however, this work has typically relied on few examples, and analyses have disallowed statistical generalizations beyond these few stimuli. The present work addresses whether morals are represented as fact-like or preference-like, using behavioral and neuroimaging methods, in combination with statistical techniques that can (a) generalize beyond our sample stimuli, and (b) test whether particular item features are associated with neural activity. Behaviorally, and contrary to prior work, morals were perceived as more preference-like than fact-like. Neurally, morals and preferences elicited common magnitudes and spatial patterns of activity, particularly within the dorsal-medial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC), a critical region for social cognition. This common DMPFC activity for morals and preferences was present across whole-brain conjunctions, and in individually localized functional regions of interest (targeting the theory of mind network). By contrast, morals and facts did not elicit any neural activity in common. Follow-up item analyses suggested that the activity elicited in common by morals and preferences was explained by their shared tendency to evoke representations of mental states. We conclude that morals are represented as far more subjective than prior work has suggested. This conclusion is consistent with recent theoretical research, which has argued that morality is fundamentally about regulating social relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Erasing and blurring memories: The differential impact of interference on separate aspects of forgetting.
    Interference disrupts information processing across many timescales, from immediate perception to memory over short and long durations. The widely held similarity assumption states that as similarity between interfering information and memory contents increases, so too does the degree of impairment. However, information is lost from memory in different ways. For instance, studied content might be erased in an all-or-nothing manner. Alternatively, information may be retained but the precision might be degraded or blurred. Here, we asked whether the similarity of interfering information to memory contents might differentially impact these 2 aspects of forgetting. Observers studied colored images of real-world objects, each followed by a stream of interfering objects. Across 4 experiments, we manipulated the similarity between the studied object and the interfering objects in circular color space. After interference, memory for object color was tested continuously on a color wheel, which in combination with mixture modeling, allowed for estimation of how erasing and blurring differentially contribute to forgetting. In contrast to the similarity assumption, we show that highly dissimilar interfering items caused the greatest increase in random guess responses, suggesting a greater frequency of memory erasure (Experiments 1–3). Moreover, we found that observers were generally able to resist interference from highly similar items, perhaps through surround suppression (Experiments 1 and 4). Finally, we report that interference from items of intermediate similarity tended to blur or decrease memory precision (Experiments 3 and 4). These results reveal that the nature of visual similarity can differentially alter how information is lost from memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Effects of learning on somatosensory decision-making and experiences.
    Operant conditioning has been shown to influence perceptual decision making in the auditory and visual modalities but the effects of conditioning on touch perception are unknown. If conditioning can be used to reduce the tendency to misinterpret somatic noise as signal (tactile false alarms), there may be the potential to use similar procedures in the treatment of excessive physical symptom reporting in clinical settings. We explored this possibility in 4 experiments investigating whether the false alarm (FA) rate in a somatic signal detection task (SSDT) could be altered with operant conditioning, and whether the resultant learning would transfer to other sensory decisions. In Experiments 1a and 2a, nonclinical participants were rewarded for hits and punished for misses on the SSDT, with a view to increasing their FA rate. In Experiments 1b and 2b, participants were rewarded for correct rejections and punished for FAs, with a view to decreasing their FA rate. Control participants received no treatment in Experiments 1a and 1b and underwent sham training in Experiments 2a and 2b. As predicted, operant conditioning increased (Experiments 1a, 2a) and decreased (Experiments 1b, 2b) FAs on the SSDT. Training effects did not transfer to an unrelated somatosensory task and there was only weak evidence for transfer to an auditory task in Experiment 2a. Auditory and tactile FAs correlated positively in the baseline phase. The results indicate that the tactile FA rate is trainable, but that the conditioning effect does not transfer across sensory decisions with this brief training paradigm. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A combined experimental and individual-differences investigation into mind wandering during a video lecture.
    A combined experimental-correlational study with a diverse sample (N = 182) from 2 research sites tested a set of 5 a priori hypotheses about mind wandering and learning, using a realistic video lecture on introductory statistics. Specifically, the study examined whether students’ vulnerability to mind wandering during the lecture would predict learning from, and situational interest in, the video and also whether longhand note-taking would help reduce mind wandering, at least for some students. One half of the participants took notes during the video, and all were subsequently tested on lecture content without notes. Regression and mediation analyses indicated that (a) several individual-differences variables (e.g., pretest score, prior math interest, classroom media multitasking habits) uniquely predicted in-lecture mind wandering frequency; (b) although the note-taking manipulation did not reduce mind wandering at the group level, note-taking still reduced mind wandering for some individuals (i.e., those with lower prior knowledge and those who took notes of high quality and quantity); (c) mind wandering uniquely predicted both learning (posttest) and situational interest outcomes above and beyond all other individual-differences variables; (d) moreover, mind wandering significantly mediated the effects of several individual differences; and, finally, (e) not all types of mind wandering were problematic—in fact, off-task reflections about lecture-related topics positively predicted learning. These results, which were generally robust across the 2 sites, suggest that educationally focused cognitive research may benefit from considering attentional processes during learning as well as cognitive and noncognitive individual differences that affect attention and learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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