qPR

qPR: An adaptive partial-report procedure based on Bayesian inference. Iconic memory is best assessed with the partial report procedure in which an array of letters appears briefly on the screen and a poststimulus cue directs the observer to report the identity of the cued letter(s). Typically, 6–8 cue delays or 600–800 trials are tested to measure the iconic memory decay function. Here we develop a quick partial report, or qPR, procedure based on a Bayesian adaptive framework to estimate the iconic memory decay function with much reduced testing time. The iconic memory decay function is characterized by an exponential function and a joint probability distribution of its three parameters. Starting with a prior of the parameters, the method selects the stimulus to maximize the expected information gain in the next test trial. It then updates the posterior probability distribution of the parameters based on the observer’s response using Bayesian inference. The procedure is reiterated until either the total number of trials or the precision of the parameter estimates reaches a certain criterion. Simulation studies showed that only 100 trials were necessary to reach an average absolute bias of 0.026 and a precision of 0.070 (both in terms of probability correct). A psychophysical validation experiment showed that estimates of the iconic memory decay function obtained with 100 qPR trials exhibited good precision (the half width of the 68.2% credible interval = 0.055) and excellent agreement with those obtained with 1,600 trials of the conventional method of constant stimuli procedure (RMSE = 0.063). Quick partial-report relieves the data collection burden in characterizing iconic memory and makes it possible to assess iconic memory in clinical populations.

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