Relative Saliency in Change Signals Affects Perceptual Comparison and Decision Processes in Change Detection

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Change detection requires perceptual comparison and decision processes on different features of multiattribute objects. How relative salience between two feature-changes influences the processes has not been addressed. This study used the systems factorial technology to investigate the processes when detecting changes in a Gabor patch with visual inputs from orientation and spatial frequency channels. Two feature-changes were equally salient in Experiment 1, but a frequency-change was more salient than an orientation-change in Experiment 2. Results showed that all four observers adopted parallel self-terminating processing with limited- to unlimited-capacity processing in Experiment 1. In Experiment 2, one observer used parallel self-terminating processing with unlimited-capacity processing, and the others adopted serial self-terminating processing with limited- to unlimited-capacity processing to detect changes. Postexperimental interview revealed that subjective utility of feature information underlay the adoption of a decision strategy. These results highlight that observers alter decision strategies in change detection depending on the relative saliency in change signals, with relative saliency being determined by both physical salience and subjective weight of feature information. When relative salience exists, individual differences in the process characteristics emerge.

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