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Perceptual Decisions in the Presence of Relevant and Irrelevant Sensory Evidence.

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Perceptual decisions in the presence of decision-irrelevant sensory information require a selection of decision-relevant sensory evidence. To characterize the mechanism that is responsible for separating decision-relevant from irrelevant sensory information we asked human subjects to make judgments about one of two simultaneously present motion components in a random dot stimulus. Subjects were able to ignore the decision-irrelevant component to a large degree, but their decisions were still influenced by the irrelevant sensory information. Computational modeling revealed that this influence was not simply the consequence of subjects forgetting at times which stimulus component they had been instructed to base their decision on. Instead, residual irrelevant information always seems to be leaking through, and the decision process is captured by a net sensory evidence signal being accumulated to a decision threshold. This net sensory evidence is a linear combination of decision-relevant and irrelevant sensory information. The selection process is therefore well-described by a strong linear gain modulation, which, in our experiment, resulted in the relevant sensory evidence having at least 10 times more impact on the decision than the irrelevant evidence.

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