PARALLEL VERSUS SERIAL PROCESSES IN MULTIDIMENSIONAL STIMULUS DISCRIMINATION.
MICHIGAN UNIV ANN ARBOR DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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Although considerable effort has been devoted to the description of processes underlying discriminations along single dimensions, there have been few attempts to determine whether or how these elementary processes are combined when discrimination requires the consideration of more than one stimulus dimension. The specific question that was investigated here was whether Ss discriminate between multidimensional objects by comparing them one dimension at a time serial mode, or by comparing them on several dimensions simultaneously parallel mode, or by comparing unitary representations of them without regard to their component dimensions template mode. Specific instances of these general modes of information processing were generated by the combination of some assumptions about the comparison process, and predictions from each of these models were compared with obtained data. In the present experiments, Ss were required to indicate whether two simultaneously presented multidimensional visual stimuli were identical or different. The response measure was reaction time, and Ss had a monetary incentive to respond both quickly and accurately. It was concluded that the most appropriate model for this task is one that assumes that dimensions are compared serially, and that the order in which dimensions are compared varies from trial-to-trial. Further, when a pair differs along several dimensions, Ss do not necessarily examine every dimension before initiating the response Different. Author