Vision (Basel). 2022 Dec 28;7(1):3. doi: 10.3390/vision7010003.
Most people are good at estimating summary statistics for different features of groups of objects. For instance, people can selectively attend to different features of a group of lines and report ensemble properties such as the mean length or mean orientation and there are reliable individual differences in such ensemble judgment abilities. Our recent study found decisive evidence in support of a correlation between the errors on mean length and mean orientation judgments (r = 0.62). The present study investigates one possible mechanism for this correlation. The ability to allocate spatial attention to single items varies across individuals, and in the recent study, this variability could have contributed to both judgments because the location of lines was unpredictable. Here, we replicate this prior work with arrays of lines with fully predictable spatial locations, to lower the contribution of the ability to distribute attention effectively over all items in a display. We observed a strong positive correlation between errors on the length and orientation averaging tasks (r = 0.65). This provides evidence against individual differences in spatial attention as a common mechanism supporting mean length and orientation judgments. The present result aligns with the growing evidence for at least one ensemble-specific ability that applies across different kinds of features and stimuli.