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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance - Vol 43, Iss 12

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance publishes studies on perception, control of action, and related cognitive processes.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Distinct profiles of information-use characterize identity judgments in children and low-expertise adults.
    Face processing abilities vary across the life span: increasing across childhood and adolescence, peaking around 30 years of age, and then declining. Despite extensive investigation, researchers have yet to identify qualitative changes in face processing during development that can account for the observed improvements on laboratory tests. The current study constituted the first detailed characterization of face processing strategies in a large group of typically developing children and adults (N = 200) using a novel adaptation of the Bubbles reverse correlation technique (Gosselin & Schyns, 2001). Resultant classification images reveal a compelling age-related shift in strategic information use during participants’ judgments of face identity. This shift suggests a move from an early reliance upon high spatial frequency details around the mouth, eye-brow and jaw-line in young children (∼8 years) to an increasingly more interlinked approach, focused upon the eye region and the center of the face in older children (∼11 years) and adults. Moreover, we reveal that the early versus late phases of this developmental trajectory correspond with the profiles of information use observed in weak versus strong adult face processors. Together, these results provide intriguing new evidence for an important functional role for strategic information use in the development of face expertise. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Re-examining the influence of attention and consciousness on visual afterimage duration.
    The relationship between visual attention and conscious perception has been the subject of debate across a number of fields, including philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. Whereas some researchers view attention and awareness as inextricably linked, others propose that the two are supported by distinct neural mechanisms that can be fully dissociated. In a pioneering study, van Boxtel, Tsuchiya, and Koch (2010b) reported evidence for a dissociation between attention and conscious perception using a perceptual adaptation task in which participants’ perceptual awareness and visual attention were manipulated independently. They found that participants’ awareness of an adapting stimulus increased afterimage duration, whereas attending to the adaptor decreased it. Given the important theoretical implications of these findings, we endeavored to replicate them using an identical paradigm while dealing with some potential shortcomings of the original study by adding more trials and a larger participant sample. Consistent with van Boxtel, Tsuchiya, and Koch, we found that afterimage duration was reliably increased when participants were aware of the adapting stimulus. In contrast to the original findings, however, attention to the adaptor also increased afterimage duration, suggesting that attention and awareness had the same—rather than opposing—effects on afterimage duration. We discuss possible reasons for this discrepancy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Cueing cognitive flexibility: Item-specific learning of switch readiness.
    The rich behavioral repertoire of the human species derives from our ability to flexibly reconfigure processing strategies (task sets) in response to changing requirements. This updating of task sets is effortful, as reflected by longer response times when switching a task than repeating it (switch costs). However, some recent data suggest that switch costs can be reduced by cueing switch readiness bottom-up, by associating particular stimuli with frequent switch requirements. This type of “stimulus-control (S-C) learning” would be highly adaptive, as it combines the speed of automatic (bottom-up) processing with the flexibility and generalizability of controlled (top-down) processing. However, it is unclear whether S-C learning of switch readiness is truly possible, and what the underlying mechanisms are. Here we address these questions by pairing specific stimuli with a need to update task-sets either frequently or rarely. In all 3 experiments, we observe robust item-specific switch probability (ISSP) effects as revealed by smaller switch costs for frequent switch items than for rare switch items. By including a neutral condition, we also show that the ISSP effect is primarily driven by S-C learning reducing switch costs in frequent switch items. Furthermore, by employing 3 tasks in Experiment 3, we establish that the ISSP effect reflects an enhancement of general switch readiness, rather than of the readiness to switch to a specific alternate task. These results firmly establish that switch readiness is malleable by item-specific S-C learning processes, documenting that a generalizable state of cognitive flexibility can be primed by a bottom-up stimulus. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The inversion, part-whole, and composite effects reflect distinct perceptual mechanisms with varied relationships to face recognition.
    Face recognition is thought to rely on specific mechanisms underlying a perceptual bias toward processing faces as undecomposable wholes. This face-specific “holistic processing” is commonly quantified using 3 measures: the inversion, part-whole, and composite effects. Consequently, many researchers assume that these 3 effects measure the same cognitive mechanism(s) and these mechanisms contribute to the wide range of individual differences seen in face recognition ability. We test these assumptions in a large sample (N = 282), with individual face recognition abilities measured by the well-validated Cambridge Face Perception Test. Our results provide little support for either assumption. The small to nonexistent correlations among inversion, part-whole, and composite effects (correlations between −.03 and .28) fail to support the first assumption. As for the second assumption, only the inversion effect moderately predicts face recognition (r = .42); face recognition was weakly correlated with the part-whole effect (r = .25) and not correlated with the composite effect (r = .04). We rule out multiple artifactual explanations for our results by using valid tasks that produce standard effects at the group level, demonstrating that our tasks exhibit psychometric properties suitable for individual differences studies, and demonstrating that other predicted correlations (e.g., between face perception measures) are robust. Our results show that inversion, part-whole, and composite effects reflect distinct perceptual mechanisms, and we argue against the use of the single, generic term holistic processing when referring to these effects. Our results also question the contribution of these mechanisms to individual differences in face recognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Contingent capture is weakened in search for multiple features from different dimensions.
    Can observers maintain more than 1 attentional set and search for 2 features in parallel? Previous studies that relied on attentional capture by irrelevant distractors to answer this question focused on features from the same dimension and specifically, on color. They showed that 2 separate color templates can guide attention selectively and simultaneously. Here, the authors investigated attentional guidance by 2 features from different dimensions. In three spatial-cueing experiments, they compared contingent capture during single-set versus dual-set search. The results showed that attention was guided less efficiently by 2 features than by just 1. This impairment varied considerably across target-feature dimensions (color, size, shape and orientation). Confronted with previous studies, our findings suggest avenues for future research to determine whether impaired attentional guidance by multiple templates occurs only in cross-dimensional disjunctive search or also in within-dimension search. The present findings also showed that although performance improved when the target feature repeated on successive trials, a relevant-feature cue did not capture attention to a larger extent when its feature matched that of the previous target. These findings suggest that selection history cannot account for contingent capture and affects processes subsequent to target selection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Distractor probability changes the shape of the attentional template.
    Theories of attention commonly refer to the “attentional template” as the collection of features in working memory that represent the target of visual search. Many models of attention assume that the template contains a veridical representation of target features, but recent studies have shown that the target representation is “shifted” away from distractor features in order to optimize their distinctiveness and facilitate visual search. Here, we manipulated the probability of target-similar distractors during a visual search task in 2 groups, and separately measured the contents of the attentional template. We hypothesized that having a high probability of target-similar distractors would increase pressure to shift and/or sharpen the target representation in order to increase the distinctiveness of targets from distractors. We found that the high-similarity group experienced less distractor interference during visual search, but only for highly target-similar distractors. Additionally, while both groups shifted the target representation away from the actual target color, the high-similarity group also had a sharper representation of the target color. We conclude that the contents of the attentional template in working memory can be flexibly adjusted with multiple mechanisms to increase target-to-distractor distinctiveness and optimize attentional selection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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