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Chris R. Sims; The cost of misremembering: Inferring the loss function in visual working memory. Journal of Vision 2015;15(3):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.3.2.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual working memory (VWM) is a highly limited storage system. A basic consequence of this fact is that visual memories cannot perfectly encode or represent the veridical structure of the world. However, in natural tasks, some memory errors might be more costly than others. This raises the intriguing possibility that the nature of memory error reflects the costs of committing different kinds of errors. Many existing theories assume that visual memories are noise-corrupted versions of afferent perceptual signals. However, this additive noise assumption oversimplifies the problem. Implicit in the behavioral phenomena of visual working memory is the concept of a loss function: a mathematical entity that describes the relative cost to the organism of making different types of memory errors. An optimally efficient memory system is one that minimizes the expected loss according to a particular loss function, while subject to a constraint on memory capacity. This paper describes a novel theoretical framework for characterizing visual working memory in terms of its implicit loss function. Using inverse decision theory, the empirical loss function is estimated from the results of a standard delayed recall visual memory experiment. These results are compared to the predicted behavior of a visual working memory system that is optimally efficient for a previously identified natural task, gaze correction following saccadic error. Finally, the approach is compared to alternative models of visual working memory, and shown to offer a superior account of the empirical data across a range of experimental datasets.
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