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Keith A. Schneider, Ibrahim Malik; A three-response task reveals how attention alters decision criteria but not appearance. Journal of Vision 2021;21(5):30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.5.30.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Whether attention alters appearance or just changes decision criteria continues to be controversial. When subjects are forced to choose which of two equal targets, one of which has been pre-cued, has a higher contrast, they tend to choose the cued target. This has been interpreted as attention increasing the apparent contrast of the cued target. However, when subjects must decide whether the two targets have equal or unequal contrast, they respond veridically with no apparent effect of attention. The discrepancy between these comparative and equality judgments is explained by attention altering the decision criteria but not appearance. We supposed that when subjects are forced to choose which of two apparently equal targets has the higher contrast, they tend to proportion their uncertainty in favor of the cued target. To test this hypothesis, we used a three-response task, in which subjects chose which target had the higher contrast but also had the option to report that the targets appeared equal. This task disentangled potential attention effects on appearance from those on the decision criteria. We found that subjects with narrower criteria about what constituted equal contrast were more likely to choose the cued target, supporting the uncertainty stealing hypothesis. Across the population, the effects of the attentional cue are explained as changes in the decision criteria and not changes in appearance.
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