Journal Article

The basis of report-difference superiority in delayed perceptual comparison tasks


A major role for visual short-term memory (VSTM) is to mediate perceptual comparisons of visual information across successive glances and brief temporal interruptions. Research that has focused on the comparison process has noted a marked tendency for performance to be better when participants are required to report a difference between the displays rather than report the absence-of-a-difference (i.e. a sameness). We refer to this performance asymmetry as report-difference superiority (RDS). It has been suggested that RDS reflects the operation of a reflexive mechanism that generates a mismatch signal during the comparison of visual input with information maintained in VSTM. This bottom-up mechanism therefore gives evidence for the presence of a feature change but not for the absence of such a change; consequently a sameness is harder to detect than a difference between two displays (Hyun et al. 2009). We test this explanation, and determine whether by itself it is a sufficient explanation of the RDS. In a delayed comparison task we find the RDS effect is most prevalent when items retain the same display locations, however the effect does persist even when compared item locations were scrambled across memory and test arrays. However, with a conjunction task this scrambling of locations was effective in wholly abolishing the RDS effect. We consider that the RDS effect is a consequence of local comparisons of features, as well as global statistical comparisons.

Attached files


Pilling, Michael
Barrett, Douglas J.K.
Gellatly, Angus

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-02-04

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Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of The basis of report-difference superiority in delayed perceptual comparison tasks
This RADAR resource Cites The data, analysis and programme source code for all experiments are available on the Open Science Framework.


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