Approximate arithmetic processing on multiple visual ensembles

Wenyi Xu

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Project Summary

Our visual working memory system has limited capacity for representing a handful of objects at once. One strategy to cope with this limit is representing sets of objects as ensembles. The Approximate Number System (ANS) enables humans to enumerate multiple sets of objects approximately using ensemble representations. However, research has not yet explored how ensemble representations stored in visual working memory might be arithmetically manipulated.

Last year, I joined Dr. Brannon’s Lab to explore different aspects of ensemble representations. I joined Chuyan’s team is to examine whether human adults can approximately divide a subset of items from heterogeneous visual arrays and whether this capacity varies with the number of subsets presented. We designed a “Thieves and Jewels Game” to examine the upper limit of the number of subsets adults can enumerate and arithmetically compute. This study will help us better understand the computational efficiency of ensemble representations to support higher-level numerical computational abilities.

Through my participation in the research, I gained first-hand experience in conducting research, includes developing research plans, recruiting participants, and analyzing data using R and excel. I enjoyed brainstorming ideas with teammates and witnessed how we developed ideas to the actual experiment. This was a wonderful experience for me!