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Psychol Rev. 2017 Mar;124(2):197-214. doi: 10.1037/rev0000060.

Fechner's law in metacognition: A quantitative model of visual working memory confidence.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology.
2
Center for Neural Science.

Abstract

Although visual working memory (VWM) has been studied extensively, it is unknown how people form confidence judgments about their memories. Peirce (1878) speculated that Fechner's law-which states that sensation is proportional to the logarithm of stimulus intensity-might apply to confidence reports. Based on this idea, we hypothesize that humans map the precision of their VWM contents to a confidence rating through Fechner's law. We incorporate this hypothesis into the best available model of VWM encoding and fit it to data from a delayed-estimation experiment. The model provides an excellent account of human confidence rating distributions as well as the relation between performance and confidence. Moreover, the best-fitting mapping in a model with a highly flexible mapping closely resembles the logarithmic mapping, suggesting that no alternative mapping exists that accounts better for the data than Fechner's law. We propose a neural implementation of the model and find that this model also fits the behavioral data well. Furthermore, we find that jointly fitting memory errors and confidence ratings boosts the power to distinguish previously proposed VWM encoding models by a factor of 5.99 compared to fitting only memory errors. Finally, we show that Fechner's law also accounts for metacognitive judgments in a word recognition memory task, which is a first indication that it may be a general law in metacognition. Our work presents the first model to jointly account for errors and confidence ratings in VWM and could lay the groundwork for understanding the computational mechanisms of metacognition. (PsycINFO Database Record.

PMID:
28221087
PMCID:
PMC5321570
DOI:
10.1037/rev0000060
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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