Behaviors recruit multiple, mutually substitutable types of cognitive resources (e.g., data acquisition and memorization in comparative visual search), and the allocation of resources is performed in a cost-optimizing way. If costs associated with each type of resource are manipulated, e.g., by varying the complexity of the items studied or the visual separation of the arrays to be compared, according adjustments of resource allocation ("trade-offs") have been demonstrated. Using between-subject designs, previous studies showed overall trade-off behavior but neglected inter-individual variability of trade-off behavior. Here, we present a simplified paradigm for comparative visual search in which gaze-measurements are replaced by switching of a visual mask covering one stimulus array at a time. This paradigm allows for a full within-subject design. While overall trade-off curves could be reproduced, we found that each subject used a specific trade-off strategy which differ substantially between subjects. Still, task-dependent adjustment of resource allocation can be demonstrated but accounts only for a minor part of the overall trade-off range. In addition, we show that the individual trade-offs were adjusted in an unconscious and rather intuitive way, enabling a robust manifestation of the selected strategy space.
Hardiess, G., & Mallot, H. A. (2015). Allocation of cognitive resources in comparative visual search - Individual and task dependent effects. Vision Research, 113(PART A), 71–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2015.05.017