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Britt Anderson; Probability and the changing shape of response distributions for orientation. Journal of Vision 2014;14(13):15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.13.15.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Spatial attention and feature-based attention are regarded as two independent mechanisms for biasing the processing of sensory stimuli. Feature attention is held to be a spatially invariant mechanism that advantages a single feature per sensory dimension. In contrast to the prediction of location independence, I found that participants were able to report the orientation of a briefly presented visual grating better for targets defined by high probability conjunctions of features and locations even when orientations and locations were individually uniform. The advantage for high-probability conjunctions was accompanied by changes in the shape of the response distributions. High-probability conjunctions had error distributions that were not normally distributed but demonstrated increased kurtosis. The increase in kurtosis could be explained as a change in the variances of the component tuning functions that comprise a population mixture. By changing the mixture distribution of orientation-tuned neurons, it is possible to change the shape of the discrimination function. This prompts the suggestion that attention may not “increase” the quality of perceptual processing in an absolute sense but rather prioritizes some stimuli over others. This results in an increased number of highly accurate responses to probable targets and, simultaneously, an increase in the number of very inaccurate responses.
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