Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1-9

First online:

Indecision on decisional separability

  • Michael L. MackAffiliated withPsychology Department, Vanderbilt University
  • , Jennifer J. RichlerAffiliated withPsychology Department, Vanderbilt University
  • , Isabel GauthierAffiliated withPsychology Department, Vanderbilt University
  • , Thomas J. PalmeriAffiliated withPsychology Department, Vanderbilt University Email author 


The theoretical framework of General Recognition Theory (GRT; Ashby & Townsend, Psychological Review, 93, 154–179, 1986) coupled with the empirical analysis tools of Multidimensional Signal Detection Analysis (MSDA; Kadlec & Townsend, Multidimensional models of perception and recognition, pp. 181–228, 1992) have become one important method for assessing dimensional interactions in perceptual decision-making. In this article, we critically examine MSDA and characterize cases where it is unable to discriminate two kinds of dimensional interactions: perceptual separability and decisional separability. We performed simulations with known instances of violations of perceptual or decisional separability, applied MSDA to the data generated by these simulations, and evaluated MSDA on its ability to accurately characterize the perceptual versus decisional source of these simulated dimensional interactions. Critical cases of violations of perceptual separability are often mischaracterized by MSDA as violations of decisional separability.


GRT MSDA Decisional Perceptual