Recognition criteria vary with fluctuating uncertainty

J Vis. 2012 Aug 6;12(8):2. doi: 10.1167/12.8.2.


In distinct experiments we examined memories for orientation and size. After viewing a randomly oriented Gabor patch (or a plain white disk of random size), observers were given unlimited time to reproduce as faithfully as possible the orientation (or size) of that standard stimulus with an adjustable Gabor patch (or disk). Then, with this match stimulus still in view, a recognition probe was presented. On half the trials, this probe was identical to the standard. We expected observers to classify the probe (a same/different task) on the basis of its difference from the match, which should have served as an explicit memory of the standard. Observers did better than that. Larger differences were classified as "same" when probe and standard were indeed identical. In some cases, recognition performance exceeded that of a simulated observer subject to the same matching errors, but forced to adopt the single most advantageous criterion difference between the probe and match. Recognition must have used information that was not or could not be exploited in the reproduction phase. One possible source for that information is observers' confidence in their reproduction (e.g., in their memory of the standard). Simulations confirm the enhancement of recognition performance when decision criteria are adjusted trial-by-trial, on the basis of the observer's estimated reproduction error.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Discrimination Learning
  • Humans
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Uncertainty*