Searching for the majority: algorithms of voluntary control. Academic Article uri icon


  • Voluntary control of information processing is crucial to allocate resources and prioritize the processes that are most important under a given situation; the algorithms underlying such control, however, are often not clear. We investigated possible algorithms of control for the performance of the majority function, in which participants searched for and identified one of two alternative categories (left or right pointing arrows) as composing the majority in each stimulus set. We manipulated the amount (set size of 1, 3, and 5) and content (ratio of left and right pointing arrows within a set) of the inputs to test competing hypotheses regarding mental operations for information processing. Using a novel measure based on computational load, we found that reaction time was best predicted by a grouping search algorithm as compared to alternative algorithms (i.e., exhaustive or self-terminating search). The grouping search algorithm involves sampling and resampling of the inputs before a decision is reached. These findings highlight the importance of investigating the implications of voluntary control via algorithms of mental operations.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Fan, J., Guise, K. G., Liu, X., & Wang, H.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Fan, Jin||Guise, Kevin G||Liu, Xun||Wang, Hongbin

editor list (cited editors)

  • Lauwereyns, J.

publication date

  • October 2008