Previous masked priming research in word recognition has demonstrated that repetition priming is influenced by experiment-wise information structure, such as proportion of target repetition. Research using naturalistic tasks and eye-tracking has shown that people use linguistic knowledge to anticipate upcoming words. We examined whether the proportion of target repetition within an experiment can have a similar effect on anticipatory eye movements. We used a word-to-picture matching task (i.e., the visual world paradigm) with target repetition proportion carefully controlled. Participants’ eye movements were tracked starting when the pictures appeared, one second prior to the onset of the target word. Targets repeated from the previous trial were fixated more than other items during this preview period when target repetition proportion was high and less than other items when target repetition proportion was low. These results indicate that linguistic anticipation can be driven by short-term within-experiment trial structure, with implications for the generalization of priming effects, the bases of anticipatory eye movements, and experiment design.
anticipation; spoken-word comprehension; repetition priming; eye-tracking
The present study examined influences of semantic characteristics of objects in real-world scenes on allocation of attention as reflected in eye movement measures. Stimuli consisted of full-color photographic scenes, and within each scene, the semantic salience of two target objects was manipulated while the objects’ perceptual salience was kept constant. One of the target objects was either inconsistent or consistent with the scene category. In addition, the second target object was either smoking-related or neutral. Two groups of college students, namely current cigarette smokers (N = 18) and non-smokers (N = 19), viewed each scene for ten seconds while their eye movements were recorded. While both groups showed preferential allocation of attention to inconsistent objects, smokers also selectively attended to smoking-related objects. Theoretical implications of the results are discussed.
visual attention; scene perception; cognitive bias; tobacco smoking
Visual search plays an important role in guiding behavior. Children have more difficulty performing conjunction search tasks than adults. The present research evaluates whether developmental differences in children's ability to organize serial visual search (i.e., search organization skills) contribute to performance limitations in a typical conjunction search task. We evaluated 134 children between the ages of 2 and 17 on separate tasks measuring search for targets defined by a conjunction of features or by distinct features. Our results demonstrated that children organize their visual search better as they get older. As children's skills at organizing visual search improve they become more accurate at locating targets with conjunction of features amongst distractors, but not for targets with distinct features. Developmental limitations in children's abilities to organize their visual search of the environment are an important component of poor conjunction search in young children. In addition, our findings provide preliminary evidence that, like other visuospatial tasks, exposure to reading may influence children's spatial orientation to the visual environment when performing a visual search.
visual search; search organization; executive function; normal development; search orientation; conjunction search
The minimum variance theory proposes that motor commands are corrupted by signal-dependent noise and smooth trajectories with low noise levels are selected to minimize endpoint error and endpoint variability. The purpose of the study was to determine the contribution of trajectory smoothness to the endpoint accuracy and endpoint variability of rapid multi-joint arm movements. Young and older adults performed arm movements (4 blocks of 25 trials) as fast and as accurately as possible to a target with the right (dominant) arm. Endpoint accuracy and endpoint variability along with trajectory smoothness and error were quantified for each block of trials. Endpoint error and endpoint variance were greater in older adults compared with young adults, but decreased at a similar rate with practice for the two age groups. The greater endpoint error and endpoint variance exhibited by older adults were primarily due to impairments in movement extent control and not movement direction control. The normalized jerk was similar for the two age groups, but was not strongly associated with endpoint error or endpoint variance for either group. However, endpoint variance was strongly associated with endpoint error for both the young and older adults. Finally, trajectory error was similar for both groups and was weakly associated with endpoint error for the older adults. The findings are not consistent with the predictions of the minimum variance theory, but support and extend previous observations that movement trajectories and endpoints are planned independently.
aging; neural noise; skill; practice
Studies have shown that false memories can be implanted via innocuous suggestions, and that these memories can play a role in shaping people’s subsequent attitudes and preferences. The current study explored whether participants (N=147) who received a false suggestion that they had become ill drinking a particular type of alcohol would increase their confidence that the event had occurred, and whether their new-found belief would subsequently affect their alcohol preferences. Results indicated that participants who received a suggestion that they had gotten sick drinking rum or vodka before the age of 16 reported increased confidence that the suggested experience had occurred. Moreover, participants who received a false alcohol suggestion also showed a strong trend to report diminished preference for the specified type of alcohol after the false suggestion. Implantation of a false memory related to one’s past drinking experiences may influence current drink preferences and could be an important avenue for further exploration in the development of alcohol interventions.
Temporal order memory, or remembering the order of events, is critical for everyday functioning and is difficult for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It is currently unclear whether these patients have difficulty acquiring and/or retaining such information and whether deficits in these patients are in excess of “normal” age-related declines. Therefore, the current study examined age and disease-related changes in temporal order memory as well as whether memory load played a role in such changes. Young controls (n=25), older controls (n=34), and MCI patients (n=32) completed an experimental task that required the reconstruction of sequences that were 3, 4, or 5-items in length both immediately after presentation (i.e., immediate recall) and again following a 10-minute delay (i.e., delayed recall). During the immediate recall phase, there was an effect of age largely due to reduced performance at the two longest span lengths. Older controls and MCI patients only differed during the 5 span (controls > MCI). During the delayed recall, however, there were significant effects of both age and MCI regardless of span length. In MCI patients, immediate recall was significantly correlated with measures of executive functioning while delayed recall performance was only related to other memory tests. These findings suggest that MCI patients experience initial temporal order memory deficits at the point when information begins to exceed working memory capacity and become dependent on medial temporal lobe functioning. Longer-term deficits are due to an inability to retain information, consistent with the characteristic medial temporal lobe dysfunction in MCI.
Two experiments examined the relations among adult aging, mind wandering, and executive-task performance, following from surprising laboratory findings that older adults report fewer task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs) than do younger adults (e.g., Giambra, 1989; Jackson & Balota, 2011). Because older adults may experience more ability- and performance-related worry during cognitive tasks in the laboratory, and because these evaluative thoughts (known as task-related interference, “TRI”) might be sometimes misclassified by subjects as task-related, we asked subjects to distinguish task-related thoughts from TRI and TUTs when probed during ongoing tasks. In Experiment 1, younger and older adults completed either a go/no-go or a vigilance version of a sustained attention to response task (SART). Older adults reported more TRI and fewer TUTs than did younger adults while also performing more accurately. In Experiment 2, subjects completed either a 1- or 2-back version of the n-back task. Older adults again reported more TRI and fewer TUTs than younger adults in both versions, while performing better than younger adults in the 1-back and worse in the 2-back. Across experiments, older adults’ reduced TUT rates were independent of performance relative to younger adults. And, although older adults consistently reported more TRI and less mind wandering than did younger adults, overall they reported more on-task thoughts. TRI cannot, therefore, account completely for prior reports of decreasing TUTs with aging. We discuss the implications of these results for various theoretical approaches to mind-wandering.
aging; mind wandering; executive control; consciousness; working memory
The idea that video games or computer-based applications can improve cognitive function has led to a proliferation of programs claiming to “train the brain.” However, there is often little scientific basis in the development of commercial training programs, and many research-based programs yield inconsistent or weak results. In this study, we sought to better understand the nature of cognitive abilities tapped by casual video games and thus reflect on their potential as a training tool. A moderately large sample of participants (n=209) played 20 web-based casual games and performed a battery of cognitive tasks. We used cognitive task analysis and multivariate statistical techniques to characterize the relationships between performance metrics. We validated the cognitive abilities measured in the task battery, examined a task analysis-based categorization of the casual games, and then characterized the relationship between game and task performance. We found that games categorized to tap working memory and reasoning were robustly related to performance on working memory and fluid intelligence tasks, with fluid intelligence best predicting scores on working memory and reasoning games. We discuss these results in the context of overlap in cognitive processes engaged by the cognitive tasks and casual games, and within the context of assessing near and far transfer. While this is not a training study, these findings provide a methodology to assess the validity of using certain games as training and assessment devices for specific cognitive abilities, and shed light on the mixed transfer results in the computer-based training literature. Moreover, the results can inform design of a more theoretically-driven and methodologically-sound cognitive training program.
Working memory; Reasoning; Fluid intelligence; Video games; Cognitive training; Casual games
Research has identified multiple category-learning systems with each being “tuned” for learning categories with different task demands and each governed by different neurobiological systems. Rule-based (RB) classification involves testing verbalizable rules for category membership while the information-integration (II) classification requires the implicit learning of stimulus-response mappings. In the first study to directly test rule priming with RB and II category learning, we investigated the influence of the availability of information presented at the beginning of the task. Participants viewed lines that varied in length, orientation, and position on the screen, and were primed to focus on stimulus dimensions that were relevant or irrelevant to the correct classification rule. In Experiment 1, we used an RB category structure, and in Experiment 2, we used an II category structure. Accuracy and model-based analyses suggested that a focus on relevant dimensions improves RB task performance later in learning while a focus on an irrelevant dimension improves II task performance early in learning.
categorization; memory systems; dimension relevance; priming; category learning
Many educated adults possess exact mathematical abilities in addition to an approximate, intuitive sense of number, often referred to as the Approximate Number System (ANS). Here we investigate the link between ANS precision and mathematics performance in adults by testing participants on an ANS-precision test and collecting their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a standardized college-entrance exam in the USA. In two correlational studies, we found that ANS precision correlated with SAT-Quantitative (i.e., mathematics) scores. This relationship remained robust even when controlling for SAT-Verbal scores, suggesting a small but specific relationship between our primitive sense for number and formal mathematical abilities.
Approximate Number System; math ability; Weber fraction; number comparison
We investigated whether the mere presentation of single-digit Arabic numbers activates their magnitude representations using a visually-presented symbolic same–different task for 20 adults and 15 children. Participants saw two single-digit Arabic numbers on a screen and judged whether the numbers were the same or different. We examined whether reaction time in this task was primarily driven by (objective or subjective) perceptual similarity, or by the numerical difference between the two digits. We reasoned that, if Arabic numbers automatically activate magnitude representations, a numerical function would best predict reaction time; but if Arabic numbers do not automatically activate magnitude representations, a perceptual function would best predict reaction time. Linear regressions revealed that a perceptual function, specifically, subjective visual similarity, was the best and only significant predictor of reaction time in adults and in children. These data strongly suggest that, in this task, single-digit Arabic numbers do not necessarily automatically activate magnitude representations in adults or in children. As the first study to date to explicitly study the developmental importance of perceptual factors in the symbolic same–different task, we found no significant differences between adults and children in their reliance on perceptual information in this task. Based on our findings, we propose that visual properties may play a key role in symbolic number judgements.
•Single-digit Arabic numbers do not automatically activate magnitude representations.•This is true for both adults and children.•Subjective visual properties may play a key role in symbolic number judgments.
Symbolic numbers; Numerical cognition; Automaticity; Magnitude representations; Same–different task
Mental rotation and number representation have both been studied widely, but although mental rotation has been linked to higher-level mathematical skills, to date it has not been shown whether mental rotation ability is linked to the most basic mental representation and processing of numbers. To investigate the possible connection between mental rotation abilities and numerical representation, 43 participants completed four tasks: 1) a standard pen-and-paper mental rotation task; 2) a multi-digit number magnitude comparison task assessing the compatibility effect, which indicates separate processing of decade and unit digits; 3) a number-line mapping task, which measures precision of number magnitude representation; and 4) a random number generation task, which yields measures both of executive control and of spatial number representations. Results show that mental rotation ability correlated significantly with both size of the compatibility effect and with number mapping accuracy, but not with any measures from the random number generation task. Together, these results suggest that higher mental rotation abilities are linked to more developed number representation, and also provide further evidence for the connection between spatial and numerical abilities.
•We show a link between mental rotation ability (MRA) and numerical representation.•MRA correlated with a measure of holding concurrent multiple number representations.•MRA correlated with a measure of number representation precision (number line task).•MRA did not correlate with an executive control task (random number generation).•These findings strengthen the link observed between spatial and numerical abilities.
Mental rotation; Numerical representation; Compatibility effect; Numerical cognition; Number line; Spatial abilities
Angular path integration refers to the ability to maintain an estimate of self-location after a rotational displacement by integrating internally-generated (idiothetic) self-motion signals over time. Previous work has found that non-sensory inputs, namely spatial memory, can play a powerful role in angular path integration (Arthur et al., 2007, 2009). Here we investigated the conditions under which spatial memory facilitates angular path integration. We hypothesized that the benefit of spatial memory is particularly likely in spatial updating tasks in which one’s self-location estimate is referenced to external space. To test this idea, we administered passive, nonvisual body rotations (ranging 40° – 140°) about the yaw axis and asked participants to use verbal reports or open-loop manual pointing to indicate the magnitude of the rotation. Prior to some trials, previews of the surrounding environment were given. We found that when participants adopted an egocentric frame of reference, the previously-observed benefit of previews on within-subject response precision was not manifested, regardless of whether remembered spatial frameworks were derived from vision or spatial language. We conclude that the powerful effect of spatial memory is dependent on one’s frame of reference during self-motion updating.
spatial memory; path integration; vestibular navigation; manual pointing; perception and action
Multi-tasking can increase susceptibility to distraction, affecting whether irrelevant objects capture attention. Similarly, people with depression often struggle to concentrate when performing cognitively demanding tasks. This parallel suggests that depression is like multi-tasking. To test this idea, we examined relations between self-reported levels of anhedonic depression (a dimension that reflects the unique aspects of depression not shared with anxiety or other forms of distress) and attention capture by salient items in a visual search task. Furthermore, we compared these relations to the effects of performing a concurrent auditory task on attention capture. Strikingly, both multi-tasking and elevated levels of anhedonic depression were associated with increased capture by uniquely colored items, but decreased capture by abruptly appearing items. At least with respect to attention capture and distraction, depression seems to be functionally comparable to juggling a second, unrelated cognitive task.
depression; anhedonic depression; attention capture; multi-tasking; distractibility
In three N-Back experiments, we investigated components of the process of working memory (WM) updating, more specifically access to items stored outside the focus of attention and transfer from the focus to the region of WM outside the focus. We used stimulus complexity as a marker. We found that when WM transfer occurred under full attention, it was slow and highly sensitive to stimulus complexity, much more so than WM access. When transfer occurred in conjunction with access, however, it was fast and no longer sensitive to stimulus complexity. Thus the updating context altered the nature of WM processing: The dual-task situation (transfer in conjunction with access) drove memory transfer into a more efficient mode, indifferent to stimulus complexity. In contrast, access times consistently increased with complexity, unaffected by the processing context. This study reinforces recent reports that retrieval is a (perhaps the) key component of working memory functioning.
The legibility of the letters in the Latin alphabet has been measured numerous times since the beginning of experimental psychology. To identify the theoretical mechanisms attributed to letter identification, we report a comprehensive review of literature, spanning more than a century. This review revealed that identification accuracy has frequently been attributed to a subset of three common sources: perceivability, bias, and similarity. However, simultaneous estimates of these values have rarely (if ever) been performed. We present the results of two new experiments which allow for the simultaneous estimation of these factors, and examine how the shape of a visual mask impacts each of them, as inferred through a new statistical model. Results showed that the shape and identity of the mask impacted the inferred perceivability, bias, and similarity space of a letter set, but that there were aspects of similarity that were robust to the choice of mask. The results illustrate how the psychological concepts of perceivability, bias, and similarity can be estimated simultaneously, and how each make powerful contributions to visual letter identification.
Letter similarity; Choice theory
Separate cognitive processes govern the inhibitory control of manual and oculomotor movements. Despite this fundamental distinction, little is known about how these inhibitory control processes relate to more complex domains of behavioral functioning. This study sought to determine how these inhibitory control mechanisms relate to broadly defined domains of impulsive behavior. Thirty adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 28 comparison adults performed behavioral measures of inhibitory control and completed impulsivity inventories. Results suggest that oculomotor inhibitory control, but not manual inhibitory control, is related to specific domains of self-reported impulsivity. This finding was limited to the ADHD group; no significant relations between inhibitory control and impulsivity were found in comparison adults. These results highlight the heterogeneity of inhibitory control processes and their differential relations to different facets of impulsivity.
impulsivity; inhibitory control; manual; oculomotor; ADHD
Face recognition is a complex skill that requires the integration of facial features across the whole face, e.g., holistic processing. It is unclear whether, and to what extent, other species process faces in a manner that is similar to humans. Previous studies on the inversion effect, a marker of holistic processing, in nonhuman primates have revealed mixed results in part because many studies have failed to include alternative image categories necessary to understand whether the effects are truly face-specific. The present study re-examined the inversion effect in rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees using comparable testing methods and a variety of high quality stimuli including faces and nonfaces. The data support an inversion effect in chimpanzees only for conspecifics’ faces (expert category), suggesting face-specific holistic processing similar to humans. Rhesus monkeys showed inversion effects for conspecifics, but also for heterospecifics’ faces (chimpanzees), and nonfaces images (houses), supporting important species differences in this simple test of holistic face processing.
face recognition; inversion effect; holistic processing; matching-to-sample; comparative
Causal counterfactuals e.g., ‘if the ignition key had been turned then the car would have started’ and causal conditionals e.g., ‘if the ignition key was turned then the car started’ are understood by thinking about multiple possibilities of different sorts, as shown in six experiments using converging evidence from three different types of measures. Experiments 1a and 1b showed that conditionals that comprise enabling causes, e.g., ‘if the ignition key was turned then the car started’ primed people to read quickly conjunctions referring to the possibility of the enabler occurring without the outcome, e.g., ‘the ignition key was turned and the car did not start’. Experiments 2a and 2b showed that people paraphrased causal conditionals by using causal or temporal connectives (because, when), whereas they paraphrased causal counterfactuals by using subjunctive constructions (had…would have). Experiments 3a and 3b showed that people made different inferences from counterfactuals presented with enabling conditions compared to none. The implications of the results for alternative theories of conditionals are discussed.
► Causal counterfactuals understood by envisaging different sorts of possibilities. ► Causal counterfactuals are paraphrased differently compared to causal conditionals. ► People make different inferences from counterfactuals in the context of a story.
Conditional reasoning; Counterfactuals; Causality; Enablers; Mental models
Theories of visual attention suggest that working memory representations automatically guide attention toward memory-matching objects. Some empirical tests of this prediction have produced results consistent with working memory automatically guiding attention. However, others have shown that individuals can strategically control whether working memory representations guide visual attention. Previous studies have not independently measured automatic and strategic contributions to the interactions between working memory and attention. In this study, we used a classic manipulation of the probability of valid, neutral, and invalid cues to tease apart the nature of such interactions. This framework utilizes measures of reaction time (RT) to quantify the costs and benefits of attending to memory-matching items and infer the relative magnitudes of automatic and strategic effects. We found both costs and benefits even when the memory-matching item was no more likely to be the target than other items, indicating an automatic component of attentional guidance. However, the costs and benefits essentially doubled as the probability of a trial with a valid cue increased from 20% to 80%, demonstrating a potent strategic effect. We also show that the instructions given to participants led to a significant change in guidance distinct from the actual probability of events during the experiment. Together, these findings demonstrate that the influence of working memory representations on attention is driven by both automatic and strategic interactions.
attention; working memory; cuing; automaticity; strategic control; PsychINFO classification 2346
Auditory and visual processes demonstrably enhance each other based on spatial and temporal coincidence. Our recent results on visual search have shown that auditory signals also enhance visual salience of specific objects based on multimodal experience. For example, we tend to see an object (e.g., a cat) and simultaneously hear its characteristic sound (e.g., “meow”), to name an object when we see it, and to vocalize a word when we read it, but we do not tend to see a word (e.g., cat) and simultaneously hear the characteristic sound (e.g., “meow”) of the named object. If auditory-visual enhancements occur based on this pattern of experiential associations, playing a characteristic sound (e.g., “meow”) should facilitate visual search for the corresponding object (e.g., an image of a cat), hearing a name should facilitate visual search for both the corresponding object and corresponding word, but playing a characteristic sound should not facilitate visual search for the name of the corresponding object. Our present and prior results together confirmed these experiential-association predictions. We also recently showed that the underlying object-based auditory-visual interactions occur rapidly (within 220 ms) and guide initial saccades towards target objects. If object-based auditory-visual enhancements are automatic and persistent, an interesting application would be to use characteristic sounds to facilitate visual search when targets are rare, such as during baggage screening. Our participants searched for a gun among other objects when a gun was presented on only 10% of the trials. The search time was speeded when a gun sound was played on every trial (primarily on gun-absent trials); importantly, playing gun sounds facilitated both gun-present and gun-absent responses, suggesting that object-based auditory-visual enhancements persistently increase the detectability of guns rather than simply biasing gun-present responses. Thus, object-based auditory-visual interactions that derive from experiential associations rapidly and persistently increase visual salience of corresponding objects.
There is an emerging literature on visual search in natural tasks suggesting that task-relevant goals account for a remarkably high proportion of saccades, including anticipatory eye-movements. Moreover, factors such as “visual saliency” that otherwise affect fixations become less important when they are bound to objects that are not relevant to the task at hand. We briefly review this literature and discuss the implications for task-based variants of the visual world paradigm. We argue that the results and their likely interpretation may profoundly affect the “linking hypothesis” between language processing and the location and timing of fixations in task-based visual world studies. We outline a goal-based linking hypothesis and discuss some of the implications for how we conduct visual world studies, including how we interpret and analyze the data. Finally, we outline some avenues of research, including examples of some classes of experiments that might prove fruitful for evaluating the effects of goals in visual world experiments and the viability of a goal-based linking hypothesis.
The present research examined whether 9.5-month-old infants can attribute to an agent a disposition to perform a particular action on objects, and can then use this disposition to predict which of two new objects—one that can be used to perform the action and one that cannot—the agent is likely to reach for next. The infants first received familiarization trials in which they watched an agent slide either three (Experiments 1 and 3) or six (Experiment 2) different objects forward and backward on an apparatus floor. During test, the infants saw two new identical objects placed side by side: one stood inside a short frame that left little room for sliding, and the other stood inside a longer frame that left ample room for sliding. The infants who saw the agent slide six different objects attributed to her a disposition to slide objects: they expected her to select the “slidable” as opposed to the “unslidable” test object, and they looked reliably longer when she did not. In contrast, the infants who saw the agent slide only three different objects looked about equally when she selected either test object. These results add to recent evidence that infants in the first year of life can attribute dispositions to agents, and can use these dispositions to help predict agents’ actions in new contexts.
Infant cognition; Disposition; Action comprehension; Psychological reasoning
Are 15-month-old infants able to detect a violation in the consistency of an event sequence that involves pretense? In Experiment 1, infants detected a violation when an actor pretended to pour liquid into one cup and then pretended to drink from another cup. In Experiment 2, infants no longer detected a violation when the cups were replaced with objects not typically used in the context of drinking actions, either shoes or tubes. Experiment 3 showed that infants’ difficulty in Experiment 2 was not due to the use of atypical objects per se, but arose from the novelty of seeing an actor appearing to drink from these objects. After receiving a single familiarization trial in which they observed the actor pretend to drink from either a shoe or a tube, infants now detected a violation when the actor pretended to pour into and to drink from different shoes or tubes. Thus, at an age (or just before the age) when infants are beginning to engage in pretend play, they are able to show comprehension of at least one aspect of pretense in a violation-of-expectation task: specifically, they are able to detect violations in the consistency of pretend action sequences.
Cognitive development; Infancy; Pretense comprehension; Theory of mind
In prior work, women were found to outperform men on short-term verbal memory tasks. The goal of the present work was to examine whether gender differences on short-term memory tasks are tied to the involvement of long-term memory in the learning process. In Experiment 1, men and women were compared on their ability to remember phonologically-familiar novel words and phonologically-unfamiliar novel words. Learning of phonologically-familiar novel words (but not of phonologically-unfamiliar novel words) can be supported by long-term phonological knowledge. Results revealed that women outperformed men on phonologically-familiar novel words, but not on phonologically-unfamiliar novel words. In Experiment 2, we replicated Experiment 1 using a within-subjects design, and confirmed gender differences on phonologically-familiar, but not phonologically-unfamiliar stimuli. These findings are interpreted to suggest that women are more likely than men to recruit native-language phonological knowledge during novel word-learning.
gender differences; word learning; phonology; short-term memory