mixtur: An R package for designing, analysing, and modelling continuous report visual short-term memory studies


Visual short-term memory (vSTM) is often measured via continuous-report tasks whereby participants are presented with stimuli that vary along a continuous dimension (e.g., colour) with the goal of memorising the stimuli features. At test, participants are probed to recall the feature value of one of the memoranda in a continuous manner (e.g., by clicking on a colour wheel). The angular deviation between the participant response and the true feature value provides an estimate of recall—and hence, vSTM—precision. Two prominent models of performance on such tasks are the two- and three-component mixture models (Bays et al., 2009; Zhang & Luck, 2008). Both models decompose participant responses into probabilistic mixtures of: (1) responses to the true target value based on a noisy memory representation; (2) random guessing when memory fails. In addition, the three-component model proposes (3) responses to a non-target feature value (i.e., binding errors). Here we report the development of mixtur, an open-source package written for the statistical programming language R that facilitates the fitting of the 2- and 3-component mixture models to continuous report data. We also conduct simulations to develop recommendations for researchers on trial numbers, set-sizes, and memoranda similarity, as well as parameter recovery and model recovery. In the Discussion, we discuss how mixtur can be used to fit the slots and the slots-plus-averaging models, as well as how mixtur can be extended to fit explanatory models of visual short-term memory. It is our hope that mixtur will lower the barrier of entry for utilising mixture modelling.

Behavior Research Methods, in press