September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Near-instantaneous choices in a tapping task
Author Affiliations
  • Eli Brenner
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Jeroen BJ Smeets
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2041. doi:
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      Eli Brenner, Jeroen BJ Smeets; Near-instantaneous choices in a tapping task. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2041.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Throughout their daily life people constantly make minor choices such as where to direct their gaze or where to place their foot. Classic reaction-time studies have shown that it takes longer to respond when one must choose between more options. However, in such studies the correct choice was defined by the experimenter and was arbitrarily related to a particular stimulus attribute. In contrast, in daily life there are often many viable options while the relationship between the stimulus and the most adequate response is not arbitrary. We therefore examined how much time it takes to make choices in such a situation. We also evaluated whether the participants’ choices were adequate. The task was to collect points by tapping on as many targets as possible within a limited amount of time. After each tap a new set of targets appeared. We found that it took about 150 ms to choose a target, with only a modest influence of the number of options and the relevant stimulus attribute. Moreover, participants usually made reasonable choices considering the circumstances. They chose larger and more advantageously positioned or oriented targets when doing so allowed them to reach the targets faster, but when the target’s colour indicated that it was worth more points they chose it less often than they should have. Altogether, people appear to make near-instantaneous choices between multiple alternatives based on task-relevant features when they are free to choose rather than being instructed as to what to choose.


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