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Does Cognitive Processing "Add-Up"? Assessing the Assumption of Pure Insertion with a Hidden Semi-Markov Model Analysis

Kricheldorff, Julius (2018) Does Cognitive Processing "Add-Up"? Assessing the Assumption of Pure Insertion with a Hidden Semi-Markov Model Analysis. Research Project 2 (major thesis), Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences.


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Many theories in cognitive psychology have the premise that information processing in the brain is facilitated in distinct cognitive stages. A controversial assumption known as “pure insertion” maintains that in a chain of processing stages one can add or remove any processing stage without having an effect on other processing stages. In this study we attempted to assess pure insertion, using EEG to record participants’ brain activity, while having them solve an information processing task. Experimental conditions of the task required the insertion of either an additional memory retrieval, the manipulation of order information, both, or neither for successful problem-solving. Effects on individual processing steps were assessed by parsing the EEG task data into processing stages with distinct neural signatures using a hidden semi Markov Model multivariate pattern analysis (HSMM-MVPA). We were successfully able to identify processing stages specific to each experimental manipulation. However, while behavioral analyses indicate pure insertion to be violated, due to low sample size we could not conclusively track this violation to a distinct processing stage. We identified an encoding-, retrieval-, as well as stages specific to manipulating the name order. Unexpectedly, the manipulation of order information turned out to contain also a memory retrieval stage. However, we were unable to consistently identify and assess effects on shared stages related to response and response preparation. Our results illustrate the validity of the HSMM-MVPA method and but also highlight the importance of careful task design and sample size considerations when using a HSMM-MVPA analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 2 (major thesis))
Supervisor name: Borst, J.P. and Portoles Marin, O.
Degree programme: Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences
Thesis type: Research Project 2 (major thesis)
Language: English
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2018 12:48

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