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Tracking, Memory, and Dynamic Icons

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Thresholds for detecting a deviation in a bilinear target trajectory are severely elevated when other linear distractor trajectories are presented simultaneously (Tripathy & Barrett, 2004, Journal of Vision, 4, 1020-1043). Here we investigate the possibility that persistence of these trajectories in sensory memory may play a crucial part in determining performance in this task. We measured deviation thresholds for stimuli that were similar to those in the original study, but with the following variations:
  • the target trajectory was cued at the start of the trial
  • the target trajectory was cued halfway through the trial (to determine if the earlier parts of the target trajectory were retained in memory)
  • the entire trajectory was presented statically in a “single shot” mode, eliminating the need for parts of the stimulus to be retained in memory for the length of time needed to traverse the trajectory
  • variable delays were introduced halfway through the trajectory in order to study the rate of decay of the trajectories in memory
  • the first half of the trajectory was masked at different SOAs following the deviation of the target.

In all of these cases, the performance of human observers was consistent with a sensory-memory-based limit to performance. Parallels with the Partial Report paradigm (Sperling, 1960, Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 74(11), 1-29) will be discussed, keeping in mind the dynamic nature of our stimuli and the context of multiple object tracking.

This talk is part of the Craik Club series.

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