Adaptive Control of Event Integration

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Identifying 2 target stimuli in a rapid stream of visual symbols is much easier if the 2nd target appears immediately after the 1st target (i.e., at Lag 1) than if distractor stimuli intervene. As this phenomenon comes with a strong tendency to confuse the order of the targets, it seems to be due to the integration of both targets into the same attentional episode or object file. The authors investigated the degree to which people can control the temporal extension of their (episodic) integration windows by manipulating the expectations participants had with regard to the time available for target processing. As predicted, expecting more time to process increased the number of order confusions at Lag 1. This was true for between-subjects and within-subjects (trial-to-trial) manipulations, suggesting that integration windows can be adapted actively and rather quickly.

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