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Algorithm for improving psychophysical threshold estimates by detecting sustained inattention in experiments using PEST


Rinderknecht, Mike D; Ranzani, Raffaele; Popp, Werner L; Lambercy, Olivier; Gassert, Roger (2018). Algorithm for improving psychophysical threshold estimates by detecting sustained inattention in experiments using PEST. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 80(6):1629-1645.

Abstract

Psychophysical procedures are applied in various fields to assess sensory thresholds. During experiments, sampled psychometric functions are usually assumed to be stationary. However, perception can be altered, for example by loss of attention to the presentation of stimuli, leading to biased data, which results in poor threshold estimates. The few existing approaches attempting to identify non-stationarities either detect only whether there was a change in perception, or are not suitable for experiments with a relatively small number of trials (e.g., [Formula: see text] 300). We present a method to detect inattention periods on a trial-by-trial basis with the aim of improving threshold estimates in psychophysical experiments using the adaptive sampling procedure Parameter Estimation by Sequential Testing (PEST). The performance of the algorithm was evaluated in computer simulations modeling inattention, and tested in a behavioral experiment on proprioceptive difference threshold assessment in 20 stroke patients, a population where attention deficits are likely to be present. Simulations showed that estimation errors could be reduced by up to 77% for inattentive subjects, even in sequences with less than 100 trials. In the behavioral data, inattention was detected in 14% of assessments, and applying the proposed algorithm resulted in reduced test-retest variability in 73% of these corrected assessments pairs. The novel algorithm complements existing approaches and, besides being applicable post hoc, could also be used online to prevent collection of biased data. This could have important implications in assessment practice by shortening experiments and improving estimates, especially for clinical settings.

Abstract

Psychophysical procedures are applied in various fields to assess sensory thresholds. During experiments, sampled psychometric functions are usually assumed to be stationary. However, perception can be altered, for example by loss of attention to the presentation of stimuli, leading to biased data, which results in poor threshold estimates. The few existing approaches attempting to identify non-stationarities either detect only whether there was a change in perception, or are not suitable for experiments with a relatively small number of trials (e.g., [Formula: see text] 300). We present a method to detect inattention periods on a trial-by-trial basis with the aim of improving threshold estimates in psychophysical experiments using the adaptive sampling procedure Parameter Estimation by Sequential Testing (PEST). The performance of the algorithm was evaluated in computer simulations modeling inattention, and tested in a behavioral experiment on proprioceptive difference threshold assessment in 20 stroke patients, a population where attention deficits are likely to be present. Simulations showed that estimation errors could be reduced by up to 77% for inattentive subjects, even in sequences with less than 100 trials. In the behavioral data, inattention was detected in 14% of assessments, and applying the proposed algorithm resulted in reduced test-retest variability in 73% of these corrected assessments pairs. The novel algorithm complements existing approaches and, besides being applicable post hoc, could also be used online to prevent collection of biased data. This could have important implications in assessment practice by shortening experiments and improving estimates, especially for clinical settings.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linguistics and Language, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, Sensory Systems, Language and Linguistics
Language:English
Date:10 May 2018
Deposited On:29 May 2018 14:34
Last Modified:24 Sep 2019 23:29
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1943-3921
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-018-1521-z
PubMed ID:29748784

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