Tuesday, 25 November 2014

JUST PUBLISHED: Not Just Pineapple and Water: How do People Integrate Information from Multiple Sources?

When choosing a restaurant for a dinner with friends we need to combine information prior to decision, concerning the location, menu, and price range. Similarly, when crossing a busy road, we sometimes need to integrate information from multiple sources, such as horn sounds and the sight of approaching cars. A recent paper published by myself and colleagues does not tell you which restaurant to choose for your party or how to safely cross the road. Rather, it provides a means for evaluating how people combine information from various sources prior to decision, and implements these tools in the context of a simple laboratory experiment of visual detection.

We can refer to the above means as ‘Cognitive Modeling Tools,’ as they tell us something meaningful about the underlying model that subserves our cognitive system. We cannot observe the cognitive system directly; it is a hypothetical entity, and to be honest I have never seen it myself despite studying it for several years. Thus, our understanding of the kind of information-processing that happens in the brain comes from observing overt behavioural measures. Indeed, the current paper focuses on measures of response times and accuracy that anyone can observe and record.

Our response-time measures (based on the work of Jim Townsend and his colleagues) use the entire distribution and are thus quite powerful. Our measure of accuracy is a novel expansion of Shaw’s No Response Probability Contrast. For brevity, I often refer to this paper as the ‘NRPC paper’.

Cognitive modelling requires some level of mathematical understanding. Luckily, much of the analyses nowadays can be implemented as readily available and easy-to-use computer codes. Relevant Matlab codes are available for free on my website. So, if you are interested in questions of information integration, such as how to combine the wits and the looks of your date, or the taste of water with pineapple please consult the paper, or contact me directly at Ami.Eidels@newcastle.edu.au

For more information, please see the following paper:

Eidels, A., Townsend, J., Hughes, H., & Perry, L. (2014). Evaluating perceptual integration: Uniting response-time- and accuracy-based methodologies Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics DOI: 10.3758/s13414-014-0788-y