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J Vis. 2015;15(4):15. doi: 10.1167/15.4.15.

Unstable mean context causes sensitivity loss and biased estimation of variability.


A recent study has suggested that statistical representations of ensemble objects may provide contextual stability to facilitate perception. The present study investigated whether facilitating such perception occurs in the extraction of variability information and how the stability of context mean values influences variability perception. We designed two tasks in which participants directly judged the variability of stimuli. In Experiment 1, we manipulated both the stability of the mean values and the exposure time to observe the time course of stability facilitation. In Experiment 2, we decomposed the stability of the context mean values into between-trials and within-trial levels to further investigate the mechanism of such facilitation. The results revealed that stable mean contexts do facilitate variability perception. In particular, unstable long-term mean context causes loss of sensitivity to variability whereas response bias is determined by the interaction between long-term and transient mean stability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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