The dynamics of buffered and triggered selection from RSVP streams

Ludowici, C,. Holcombe, A. O., (In Press). The dynamics of buffered and triggered selection from RSVP streams. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance​ Preprint here

From an incoming stream of visual information, only a limited number of stimuli can be selected for extensive processing. Much of the literature assumes that selection of cued items in RSVP streams is a result of attentional sampling being triggered by the cue. We provide evidence for another process - selection from a buffer of stimulus representations. This can yield selection of stimuli presented before the cue, despite the common theoretical claim that such stimuli should be unavailable. Our novel statistical method provides quantitative evidence that stimuli presented before the cue are sometimes selected. This phenomenon occured when two RSVP streams were presented simultaneously and one was cued at a random time. When the number of streams was increased, evidence for pre-cue reports diminished and selection was delayed. These results indicated that stimuli in RSVP evoke representations that persist long enough to be selected, provided attention is fast enough. The speed and variability of temporal selection of items is affected by endogenous attention and possibly by competition among stimulus representations. In conditions with fewer streams, faster selection and buffering may occur thanks to participants applying endogenous attention before the cue is presented, speeding the response to the cue and leading to more reports of the item before the cue.