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date: 26 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Absolute identification is a deceptively simple task that has been the focus of empirical investigation and theoretical speculation for more than half a century. Since Miller’s (1956) seminal paper the puzzle of why people are severely limited in their capacity to accurately perform absolute identification has endured. Despite the apparent simplicity of absolute identification, many complicated and robust effects are observed in both response latency and accuracy, including capacity limitations, strong sequential effects and effects of the position of a stimulus within the set. Constructing a comprehensive theoretical account of these benchmark effects has proven difficult, and existing accounts all have shortcomings. We review classical empirical findings, as well as some newer findings that challenge existing theories. We then discuss a variety of theories, with a focus on the most recent proposals, make some broad conclusions about general classes of models, and discuss the challenges ahead for each class.

Keywords: absolute identification, perceptual discrimination, categorization, sequential effects, decision-making

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