Variability in the quality of visual working memory

Daryl Fougnie, Jordan W. Suchow, George A. Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Working memory is a mental storage system that keeps task-relevant information accessible for a brief span of time, and it is strikingly limited. Its limits differ substantially across people but are assumed to be fixed for a given person. Here we show that there is substantial variability in the quality of working memory representations within an individual. This variability can be explained neither by fluctuations in attention or arousal over time, nor by uneven distribution of a limited mental commodity. Variability of this sort is inconsistent with the assumptions of the standard cognitive models of working memory capacity, including both slot- and resource-based models, and so we propose a new framework for understanding the limitations of working memory: a stochastic process of degradation that plays out independently across memories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1229
JournalNature Communications
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 14 2012

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Short-Term Memory
Data storage equipment
Stochastic Processes
arousal
commodities
Arousal
stochastic processes
Random processes
slots
resources
Computer systems
degradation
Degradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

Variability in the quality of visual working memory. / Fougnie, Daryl; Suchow, Jordan W.; Alvarez, George A.

In: Nature Communications, Vol. 3, 1229, 14.12.2012.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fougnie, Daryl ; Suchow, Jordan W. ; Alvarez, George A. / Variability in the quality of visual working memory. In: Nature Communications. 2012 ; Vol. 3.
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