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Melissa M. Kibbe, Eileen Kowler; Visual search for category sets: Tradeoffs between exploration and memory. Journal of Vision 2011;11(3):14. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.3.14.
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Limitations of working memory force a reliance on motor exploration to retrieve forgotten features of the visual array. A category search task was devised to study tradeoffs between exploration and memory in the face of significant cognitive and motor demands. The task required search through arrays of hidden, multi-featured objects to find three belonging to the same category. Location contents were revealed briefly by either a: (1) mouseclick, or (2) saccadic eye movement with or without delays between saccade offset and object appearance. As the complexity of the category rule increased, search favored exploration, with more visits and revisits needed to find the set. As motor costs increased (mouseclick search or oculomotor search with delays) search favored reliance on memory. Application of the model of J. Epelboim and P. Suppes (2001) to the revisits produced an estimate of immediate memory span (M) of about 4–6 objects. Variation in estimates of M across category rules suggested that search was also driven by strategies of transforming the category rule into concrete perceptual hypotheses. The results show that tradeoffs between memory and exploration in a cognitively demanding task are determined by continual and effective monitoring of perceptual load, cognitive demand, decision strategies and motor effort.
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