Why is accurately labelling simple magnitudes so hard?
Donkin, C and Rae, B and Heathcote, A and Brown, SD, Why is accurately labelling simple magnitudes so hard?, Oxford Handbook of Computational and Mathematical Psychology, Oxford University Press, JR Busemeyer, JT Townsend, Z J Wang, & A Eidels (ed), Oxford, pp. 1-32. ISBN 978-0-19-995799-6 (2015) [Other Book Chapter]
Absolute identication is a deceptively simple task that has been the focus of empirical investigation and theoretical speculation for more than half a century. Observers are shown a set of N stimuli varying on a single dimension (e.g., length or loudness) and each stimulus is given a label (e.g.,1; ::;N). They then attempt to identify stimuli presented one at at time
by producing the associated label. Since Miller's (1956) seminal paper the puzzle of why people are severely limited in their capacity to accurately perform absolute identication has endured. Despite the apparent simplicity of absolute identication, many complicated and robust eects are observed in both response latency and accuracy, including capacity limitations, strong sequential eects and eects 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 in one way or another. We review classical empirical ndings, 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.