Covert visual search: prior beliefs are optimally combined with sensory evidence

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    Abstract

    Has evolution optimized visual selective attention to make the best possible use of all information available? If so, then Bayesian optimal performance in a localization task is achieved by optimally weighting the visual evidence with one's prior spatial expectations. In 2 psychophysical experiments, participants conducted covert target localization where both visual cues and prior expectations were available. The amount of information conveyed by the visual evidence was held constant, while the degree of belief was manipulated via peripheral cuing (Experiment 1) and spatial probabilities (Experiment 2). A number of findings result: (1) People appear to optimally combine slightly biased prior beliefs with sensory evidence. (2) These biases are directly comparable to those descriptively accounted for by the Prospect Theory. (3) Probabilistic information about a target's upcoming location is integrated identically, irrespective of whether endogenous or exogenous cuing is used. (4) In localization tasks, spatial attention can be understood and quantitatively modeled as a set of prior expectations over space that modulate incoming noisy sensory evidence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number25
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Vision
    Volume11
    Issue number13
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Keywords

    • covert attention
    • decision making
    • visual psychophysics
    • signal detection theory
    • Bayesian inference
    • exogenous
    • endogenous
    • statistical optimality
    • PROBABILITY WEIGHTING FUNCTION
    • NEURAL BASIS
    • TIME-COURSE
    • ATTENTION
    • SENSITIVITY
    • DECISION
    • BEHAVIOR
    • CUES
    • DISCRIMINATION
    • IDENTIFICATION

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