Individual representations in visual working memory inherit ensemble properties
Prevailing theories of visual working memory assume that each encoded item is stored or forgotten as a separate unit independent from other items. Here, we show that items are not independent, and that the recalled orientation of an individual item is strongly influenced by the summary statistical representation of all items (ensemble representation). We find that not only is memory for an individual orientation substantially biased towards the mean orientation, but the precision of memory for an individual item also closely tracks the precision with which people store the mean orientation (which is, in turn, correlated with the physical range of orientations). Thus, individual items are reported more precisely when items on a trial are more similar. Moreover, the narrower the range of orientations present on a trial, the more participants appear to rely on the mean orientation as representative of all individuals. This can be observed not only when the range is carefully controlled, but also shown even in randomly generated, unstructured displays, and after accounting for the possibility of location-based ‘swap’ errors. Our results suggest that the information about a set of items is represented hierarchically, and that ensemble information can be an important source of information to constrain uncertain information about individuals.
It was previously shown that the features of individual items retrieved from visual working memory (VWM) are systematically biased towards the mean feature of a sample set (Brady & Alvarez, 2011), suggesting hierarchical encoding in VWM. In our work, we investigated how hierarchical representations are stored over time. Observers were shown four differently oriented triangles for 200 ms and, after 1-, 4-, or 7-second delay, they had to report either one individual orientation, or the average orientation of all triangles, rotating a probe circle. Before set presentations, observers were informed that they had to remember one particular orientation, all four individual orientations, or the average orientation. Using the mixture model (Zhang & Luck, 2008), we estimated a probability of a tested representation being in VWM and its precision, as well as a systematic bias that would indicate hierarchical encoding. We found a strong bias towards the mean in the “remember four” condition, which provides evidence for hierarchical encoding in VWM. Our main result was the absence of significant changes in retaining the elements of a hierarchical representation (the mean and individual features). This supports an idea that hierarchical representations are related to encoding, rather than storing in VWM. Both fidelity and the probability of an item being in memory decrease over time. It supports "Sudden Death" and "Gradual Decay" accounts for storing hierarchical representations.
The heterogeneity of our visual environment typically reduces the speed with which a singleton target can be found. Visual search theories explain this via nontarget similarities and dissimilarities that affect grouping, perceptual noise, etc. Here, we show that increasing the heterogeneity of a display can facilitate rather than inhibit visual search for size and orientation singletons when heterogeneous features smoothly fill the transition between highly distinguishable nontargets. We suggest that this smooth transition reduce the “segmentability” of dissimilar items to otherwise separate subsets making the visual system to treat them as a near-homogenous sets opposing to a singleton.
Ensemble summary statistics represent multiple objects on the high level of abstraction—that is, without representing individual features and ignoring spatial organization. This makes them especially useful for the rapid visual categorization of multiple objects of different types that are intermixed in space. Rapid categorization implies our ability to judge at one brief glance whether all visible objects represent different types or just variants of one type. A framework presented here states that processes resembling statistical tests can underlie that categorization. At an early stage (primary categorization), when independent ensemble properties are distributed along a single sensory dimension, the shape of that distribution is tested in order to establish whether all features can be represented by a single or multiple peaks. When primary categories are separated, the visual system either reiterates the shape test to recognize subcategories (indepth processing) or implements mean comparison tests to match several primary categories along a new dimension. Rapid categorization is not free from processing limitations; the role of selective attention in categorization is discussed in light of these limitations.
This article reviews the research in visual working memory (VWM) over the past 20 years. We describe research methodologies in the field and focus on commonly used paradigms such as change detection and continuous report (including the use of mixed models for analysis) that aim to measure the capacity and precision of VWM. We also consider the organization of units of storage in VWM; in particular, we describe feature binding and representing multiple objects as ensemble summary statistics. We review theories that try to explain the nature of VWM limitations: structural theories (slot-based), resource theories, hybrid theories (slot and resource theories), and a recently suggested hierarchical encoding theory. Theories aiming to explain forgetting mechanisms in VWM are reviewed. We also discuss the neural correlates of VWM encoding and storage, as well as neurophysiological models of VWM that are substantially influenced by the mentioned theories.
The distractive effects on attentional task performance in different paradigms are analyzed in this paper. I demonstrate how distractors may negatively affect (interference effect), positively (redundancy effect) or neutrally (null effect). Distractor effects described in literature are classified in accordance with their hypothetical source. The general rule of the theory is also introduced. It contains the formal prediction of the particular distractor effect, based on entropy and redundancy measures from the mathematical theory of communication (Shannon, 1948). Single- vs dual-process frameworks are considered for hypothetical mechanisms which underpin the distractor effects. Distractor profiles (DPs) are also introduced for the formalization and simple visualization of experimental data concerning the distractor effects. Typical shapes of DPs and their interpretations are discussed with examples from three frequently cited experiments. Finally, the paper introduces hierarchical hypothesis that states the level-fashion modulating interrelations between distractor effects of different classes.
This article describes the expierence of studying factors influencing the social well-being of educational migrants as mesured by means of a psychological well-being scale (A. Perrudet-Badoux, G.A. Mendelsohn, J.Chiche, 1988) previously adapted for Russian by M.V. Sokolova. A statistical analysis of the scale's reliability is performed. Trends in dynamics of subjective well-being are indentified on the basis the correlations analysis between the condbtbions of adaptation and its success rate, and potential mechanisms for developing subjective well-being among student migrants living in student hostels are described. Particular attention is paid to commuting as a factor of adaptation.