Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Information Persistence in the Integration of Partial Cues for Object Recognition

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Information Persistence in the Integration of Partial Cues for Object Recognition

Article excerpt

A great many studies have shown that the perceptual effects of very brief visual stimuli can persist beyond the duration of the stimulus itself. These effects include sustained perception of the stimulus even though it is no longer present and the integration of information across an interstimulus interval. These two forms of sustained activity can be characterized as visible persistence and information persistence. Iconic memory protocols and a number of discrimination tasks have demonstrated the existence of information persistence that can last up to several hundred milliseconds, but there is little evidence that the cues needed for identification of objects can be transferred across intervals in this range. In the present experiments, a minimal transient discrete cue protocol was used to demonstrate that shape cues, these being provided by subsets of dots that mark the outer boundary of nameable objects, can be integrated over several hundred milliseconds and that the duration is a function of ambient room illumination. The experiments further evaluated whether this information persistence is mediated by visible persistence. Although both perceptual effects have durations that are an inverse function of room illumination, the ability to integrate partial shape cues was not determined by the duration of visible persistence.

At the retina, a brief pulse of light causes a response that rises rapidly and decays slowly, outlasting the flash. (Adrian & Matthews, 1927)

There is abundant evidence that the information provided by sensory signals is preserved for an interval that may be far longer than the stimulation itself. Thus, even for the briefest of stimuli, there is some form of sustained neural response that provides for integration of information being generated by successive events. In vision, this process has been described using various terms, including visual persistence (see Long, 1980), visible persistence (see Coltheart, 1980), visual information store (Sperling, 1960), iconic memory (Neisser, 1967), and short-term visual storage (Haber & Standing, 1969).

What is most pertinent to the present work are the methods introduced by Eriksen and Collins (1967, 1968). These investigators briefly displayed two dot patterns in rapid succession. Dot placement in the two patterns was complementary, so that a composite of the two would allow a three-consonant trigram to be seen if the two were displayed quickly enough. It was considered likely that persistence allowed stimulus information from the first pattern to be carried forward across the interval, making it possible for that information to be combined with the stimulus pattern that followed about 100 msec later. The results of Eriksen and Collins (1967, 1968) appeared to be congruent with earlier work by Sperling (1960) and Averback and Coriell (1961), each of whom had suggested some form of sustained sensory trace as part of the normal mechanism for storing stimulus information.

However, the question of whether sustained activity is a prerequisite for accessing long-term memory stores has not been adequately addressed, nor has it been shown that the information needed for recognition can be integrated over intervals in the 100-msec range. The recognition required by Eriksen and Collins (1967, 1968) was from a very small store of overlearned letter trigrams. The task might well be accomplished by relatively narrow discrimination criteria that have little to do with normal shape and object recognition. Furthermore, subsequent studies making use of the successive-display paradigm have employed discrimination tasks that do not address the possible role for visible persistence in the retrieval of long-term memories, (see DiLoIIo, 1977, 1980; Phillips, 1974; Sakitt & Long, 1978, 1979).

As a related issue, a number of experimentalists and theorists have argued that the sustained neural response that mediates integration of information is also experienced as visible persistence, wherein the stimulus is consciously perceived as being present for a period that can be far longer than its actual duration. …

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