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A resource-rational theory of set size effects in human visual working memory
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2018 (English)In: eLIFE, E-ISSN 2050-084X, Vol. 7, article id e34963Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Encoding precision in visual working memory decreases with the number of encoded items. Here, we propose a normative theory for such set size effects: the brain minimizes a weighted sum of an error-based behavioral cost and a neural encoding cost. We construct a model from this theory and find that it predicts set size effects. Notably, these effects are mediated by probing probability, which aligns with previous empirical findings. The model accounts well for effects of both set size and probing probability on encoding precision in nine delayed-estimation experiments. Moreover, we find support for the prediction that the total amount of invested resource can vary non-monotonically with set size. Finally, we show that it is sometimes optimal to encode only a subset or even none of the relevant items in a task. Our findings raise the possibility that cognitive 'limitations' arise from rational cost minimization rather than from constraints.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd , 2018. Vol. 7, article id e34963
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-357477DOI: 10.7554/eLife.34963ISI: 000442725600001PubMedID: 30084356OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-357477DiVA, id: diva2:1239442
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2015-00371Available from: 2018-08-16 Created: 2018-08-16 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved

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Van den Berg, Ronald

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