The 2015 William James prize, which the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness annually awards to the best piece of research in the field of consciousness, was given to Alexandra Vlassova, who, in two rather phenomenal papers, shows how “evidence accumulation” works not just for conscious awareness, but also for unconscious information: accumulated perpetual evidence will bear on decision accuracy but not on confidence rating (a measure for awareness).
These are the two papers:
- Vlassova, A., Donkin, C. & Pearson, J. (2014). Unconscious information changes decision accuracy but not confidence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (42), 16214–16218. “One of the more intriguing but controversial ideas in psychology is that unconscious information can influence our decisions without us even knowing it. Here, we explicitly tested these controversial ideas with a novel behavioral task and computational models of decision-making. We report that unconscious information can be accumulated in a similar manner but less effectively than conscious information. However, unlike conscious information, unconscious information does not seem to boost decision confidence. Our findings cannot be accounted for using existing models of priming or adaptation.”
- Vlassova, A. & Pearson, J. (2013). Look before you leap: sensory memory improves decision-making. Psychological Science. 24(9), 1635-1643. “[…] Further, memory and perception showed equivalent rates of evidence accumulation, suggesting a high-capacity memory store. We propose an account of continued evidence accumulation by sequential sampling from a simultaneously decaying memory trace. Memories typically decay with time, hence immediate inquiry trumps later recall from memory. However, the results we report here show the inverse: Inspecting a memory trumps viewing the actual object.”