Ensemble statistics as units of selection


The current study investigated whether attentional mechanisms operate on ensembles as higher-order units for selection. In Experiment 1, we presented sets of circles and asked participants to compare the mean sizes of the sets while concurrently detecting a small probe appearing at a centroid of one of the sets. We found that, both with and even without the task instruction to favour larger mean sizes, people’s mean size judgement was more accurate for the sets with larger mean sizes. In addition, detection of the probe appearing in the set with the largest mean size was facilitated by a matching task instruction. However, when the task instruction favoured smaller mean sizes, mean size judgement became more accurate for the sets with smaller mean sizes. These results suggest that attentional selection can be based on ensembles. In Experiment 2, we found further evidence that attention was directed towards the centroid of an ensemble, rather than towards an individual member of the ensemble. Together, these results suggest that attentional modulation can operate at the level of ensembles instead of selecting individuals separately and that the centroid of an ensemble can be the locus of selection based on an ensemble.

Im, H.Y., Park, W., & Chong, S.C. (2015). Ensemble statistics as a unit of selection. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 27, 114-127. [PDF]