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1.  Perceptual judgment and saccadic behavior in a spatial distortion with briefly presented stimuli. 
When observers are asked to localize the peripheral position of a small probe with respect to the mid-position of a spatially extended comparison stimulus, they tend to judge the probe as being more peripheral than the mid-position of the comparison stimulus. This relative mislocalization seems to emerge from differences in absolute localization, that is the comparison stimulus is localized more towards the fovea than the probe. The present study compared saccadic behaviour and relative localization judgements in three experiments and determined the quantitative relationship between both measures. The results showed corresponding effects in localization errors and saccadic behaviour. Moreover, it was possible to estimate the amount of the relative mislocalization by means of the saccadic amplitude.
PMCID: PMC2916663  PMID: 20689637
eye movement; saccade; localization; position; absolute position judgement; relative position judgement; space perception; visual illusion
2.  Configural and featural processing in humans with congenital prosopagnosia. 
Prosopagnosia describes the failure to recognize faces, a deficiency that can be devastating in social interactions. Cases of acquired prosopagnosia have often been described over the last century. In recent years, more and more cases of congenital prosopagnosia (CP) have been reported. In the present study we tried to determine possible cognitive characteristics of this impairment. We used scrambled and blurred images of faces, houses, and sugar bowls to separate featural processing strategies from configural processing strategies. This served to investigate whether congenital prosopagnosia results from process-specific deficiencies, or whether it is a face-specific impairment. Using a delayed matching paradigm, 6 individuals with CP and 6 matched healthy controls indicated whether an intact test stimulus was the same identity as a previously presented scrambled or blurred cue stimulus. Analyses of d´ values indicated that congenital prosopagnosia is a face-specific deficit, but that this shortcoming is particularly pronounced for processing configural facial information.
PMCID: PMC2916664  PMID: 20689639
face perception; object perception; visual cognition; prosopagnosia
3.  Faster decline of pitch memory over time in congenital amusia 
Congenital amusia (amusia, hereafter) is a developmental disorder that impacts negatively on the perception of music. Psychophysical testing suggests that individuals with amusia have above average thresholds for detection of pitch change and pitch direction discrimination; however, a low-level auditory perceptual problem cannot completely explain the disorder, since discrimination of melodies is also impaired when the constituent intervals are suprathreshold for perception. The aim of the present study was to test pitch memory as a function of (a) time and (b) tonal interference, in order to determine whether pitch traces are inherently weaker in amusic individuals. Memory for the pitch of single tones was compared using two versions of a paradigm developed by Deutsch (1970a). In both tasks, participants compared the pitch of a standard (S) versus a comparison (C) tone. In the time task, the S and C tones were presented, separated in time by 0, 1, 5, 10, and 15 s (blocked presentation). In the interference task, the S and C tones were presented with a fixed time interval (5 s) but with a variable number of irrelevant tones in between 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 tones (blocked presentation). In the time task, control performance remained high for all time intervals, but amusics showed a performance decrement over time. In the interference task, controls and amusics showed a similar performance decrement with increasing number of irrelevant tones. Overall, the results suggest that the pitch representations of amusic individuals are less stable and more prone to decay than those of matched non-amusic individuals.
PMCID: PMC2916665  PMID: 20689638
congenital amusia; short-term memory; delay; tonal interference
4.  Free will debates: Simple experiments are not so simple 
The notion that free will is an illusion has achieved such wide acceptance among philosophers and neuroscientists that it seems to be acquiring the status of dogma. Nonetheless, research in this area continues, and this review offers a new analysis of the design limitations and data interpretations of free-will experiments. This review presents 12 categories of questionable conclusions that some scholars use to promote the idea that free will is an illusion. The next generation of less ambiguous experiments is proposed.
PMCID: PMC2942748  PMID: 20859552
free will; consciousness; Libet; compatibilism
5.  Erroneous selection of a non-target item improves subsequent target identification in rapid serial visual presentations 
The second of two targets (T2) embedded in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVSVP) is often missed even though the first (T1) is correctly reported (attentional blink). The rate of correct T2 identification is quite high, however, when T2 comes immediately after T1 (lag-1 sparing). This study investigated whether and how non-target items induce lag-1 sparing. One T1 and two T2s comprising letters were inserted in distractors comprising symbols in each of two synchronised RSVSVPs. A digit (dummy) was presented with T1 in another stream. Lag-1 sparing occurred even at the location where the dummy was present (Experiment 1). This distractor-induced sparing effect was also obtained even when a Japanese katakana character (Experiment 2) was used as the dummy. The sparing effect was, however, severely weakened when symbols (Experiment 3) and Hebrew letters (Experiment 4) served as the dummy. Our findings suggest a tentative hypothesis that attentional set for item nameability is meta-categorically created and adopted to the dummy only when the dummy is nameable.
PMCID: PMC2943427  PMID: 20859463
attentional blink; RSVP; category; attentional set; lag-1 sparing
6.  Configurational asymmetry in vernier offset detection 
Two psychophysical experiments were conducted at the horizontal and vertical orientations respectively, demonstrating substantial main effect of configuration, but no effect of offset direction on vernier acuity. In Experiment 1, a pair of horizontal bars were arranged side by side with a large gap between them. The observers were, on average, significantly better at discriminating a vertical offset if the right-hand bar was below the left-hand bar than vice versa, regardless of which bar they experienced as displaced and which as constant. A similar asymmetry was evident in Experiment 2 where observers judged horizontal offset for a pair of vertically oriented bars, where one was placed above the other. In this case average performance was better if the upper bar was on the right of the lower bar rather than on its left. There were large individual variations in the asymmetrical trend, but the effect could not be explained by subjective response bias. Furthermore, vernier acuity improved significantly and the asymmetry decreased more or less as a function of training. The average asymmetrical trend was consistent across training days and across two orientations, which indicates that the processing of line vernier stimuli is possibly configuration-specific in the cardinal orientation.
PMCID: PMC2950944  PMID: 20930953
vernier acuity; offset direction; orientation cue; configuration; training; response bias; asymmetry; neural preference; cortical plasticity
7.  Effects of syntactic context on eye movements during reading 
Previous research has demonstrated that properties of a currently fixated word and of adjacent words influence eye movement control in reading. In contrast to such local effects, little is known about the global effects on eye movement control, for example global adjustments caused by processing difficulty of previous sentences. In the present study, participants read text passages in which voice (active vs. passive) and sentence structure (embedded vs. non-embedded) were manipulated. These passages were followed by identical target sentences. The results revealed effects of previous sentence structure on gaze durations in the target sentence, implying that syntactic properties of previously read sentences may lead to a global adjustment of eye movement control.
PMCID: PMC2993640  PMID: 21116346
reading; eye movements; syntax; context; global effects; syntactic priming
8.  General aptitude and the assumption of truth in deductively rational reasoning about probable but false antecedent to consequent relations 
Two experiments (N1 = 117 and N2 = 245) on reasoning with knowledge-rich conditionals showed a main effect of logical validity, which was due to the negative effect of counter-examples being smaller for valid than for invalid arguments. These findings support the thesis that some people tend to inhibit background inconsistent with the hypothetical truth of the premises, while others tend to abandon the implicit truth-assumption when they have factual evidence to the contrary. Findings show that adhering to the truth-assumption in the face of conflicting evidence to the contrary requires an investment of time and effort which people with a higher general aptitude are more likely to do.
PMCID: PMC3019985  PMID: 21228921
rationality; reasoning; conditionals; truth
9.  The what and why of perceptual asymmetries in the visual domain 
Perceptual asymmetry is one of the most important characteristics of our visual functioning. We carefully reviewed the scientific literature in order to examine such asymmetries, separating them into two major categories: within-visual field asymmetries and between-visual field asymmetries. We explain these asymmetries in terms of perceptual aspects or tasks, the what of the asymmetries; and in terms of underlying mechanisms, the why of the asymmetries. Tthe within-visual field asymmetries are fundamental to orientation, motion direction, and spatial frequency processing. between-visual field asymmetries have been reported for a wide range of perceptual phenomena. foveal dominance over the periphery, in particular, has been prominent for visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and colour discrimination. Tthis also holds true for object or face recognition and reading performance. upper-lower visual field asymmetries in favour of the lower have been demonstrated for temporal and contrast sensitivities, visual acuity, spatial resolution, orientation, hue and motion processing. Iin contrast, the upper field advantages have been seen in visual search, apparent size, and object recognition tasks. left-right visual field asymmetries include the left field dominance in spatial (e.g., orientation) processing and the right field dominance in non-spatial (e.g., temporal) processing. left field is also better at low spatial frequency or global and coordinate spatial processing, whereas the right field is better at high spatial frequency or local and categorical spatial processing. All these asymmetries have inborn neural/physiological origins, the primary why, but can be also susceptible to visual experience, the critical why (promotes or blocks the asymmetries by altering neural functions).
PMCID: PMC3019986  PMID: 21228922
visual perception; asymmetry; within-visual field; between-visual field; primary why; critical why; neural mechanisms; hemispheric specialization; visual experience
10.  Differential effects of prolonged work on performance measures in self-paced speed tests. 
Time-related changes in the speeded performance of complex cognitive tasks are considered to arise from the combined effects of practice and mental fatigue. Here we explored the differential contributions of practice and fatigue to performance changes in a self-paced speeded mental addition and comparison task of about 50 min duration, administered twice within one week’s time. Performance measures included average response speed, accuracy, and response speed variability. The results revealed differential effects of prolonged work on different performance indices: Practice effects, being more pronounced in the first session, were reflected in an improvement of average response speed, whereas mental fatigue, occurring in both sessions, was reflected in an increase of response speed variability. This demonstrates that effects of mental fatigue on average speed of performance may be masked by practice effects but still be detectable in the variability of performance. Therefore, besides experimental factors such as the length and complexity of tasks, indices of response speed variability should be taken into consideration when interpreting different aspects of performance in self-paced speed tests.
PMCID: PMC2916666  PMID: 20689668
reaction time; mental fatigue; sustained performance; time on task; practice effects
11.  A filled duration illusion in music: Effects of metrical subdivision on the perception and production of beat tempo. 
This study replicates and extends previous findings suggesting that metrical subdivision slows the perceived beat tempo (Repp, 2008). Here, musically trained participants produced the subdivisions themselves and were found to speed up, thus compensating for the perceived slowing. This was shown in a synchronization-continuation paradigm (Experiment 1) and in a reproduction task (Experiment 2a). Participants also judged the tempo of a subdivided sequence as being slower than that of a preceding simple beat sequence (Experiment 2b). Experiment 2 also included nonmusician participants, with similar results. Tempo measurements of famous pianists’ recordings of two variation movements from Beethoven sonatas revealed a strong tendency to play the first variation (subdivided beats) faster than the theme (mostly simple beats). A similar tendency was found in musicians’ laboratory performances of a simple theme and variations, despite instruc-tions to keep the tempo constant (Experiment 3a). When playing melodic sequences in which only one of three beats per measure was subdivided, musicians tended to play these beats faster and to perceive them as longer than adjacent beats, and they played the whole sequence faster than a sequence without any subdivisions (Experiments 3b and 3c). The results amply demonstrate a filled duration illusion in rhythm perception and music performance: Intervals containing events seem longer than empty intervals and thus must be shortened to be perceived as equal in duration.
PMCID: PMC2916667  PMID: 20689669
timing; tempo perception; interval subdivision; filled duration illusion; music performance

Results 1-11 (11)