What are the units of storage in visual working memory?

Daryl Fougnie, Christopher L. Asplund, René Marois

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    An influential theory suggests that integrated objects, rather than individual features, are the fundamental units that limit our capacity to temporarily store visual information (S. J. Luck & E. K. Vogel, 1997). Using a paradigm that independently estimates the number and precision of items stored in working memory (W. Zhang & S. J. Luck, 2008), here we show that the storage of features is not cost-free. The precision and number of objects held in working memory was estimated when observers had to remember either the color, the orientation, or both the color and orientation of simple objects. We found that while the quantity of stored objects was largely unaffected by increasing the number of features, the precision of these representations dramatically decreased. Moreover, this selective deterioration in object precision depended on the multiple features being contained within the same objects. Such fidelity costs were even observed with change detection paradigms when those paradigms placed demands on the precision of the stored visual representations. Taken together, these findings not only demonstrate that the maintenance of integrated features is costly; they also suggest that objects and features affect visual working memory capacity differently.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of vision
    Volume10
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Nov 23 2010

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    Short-Term Memory
    Color
    Costs and Cost Analysis
    Maintenance

    Keywords

    • Attention
    • Memory
    • Visual cognition

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ophthalmology
    • Sensory Systems

    Cite this

    What are the units of storage in visual working memory? / Fougnie, Daryl; Asplund, Christopher L.; Marois, René.

    In: Journal of vision, Vol. 10, No. 12, 23.11.2010, p. 1-11.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Fougnie, D, Asplund, CL & Marois, R 2010, 'What are the units of storage in visual working memory?', Journal of vision, vol. 10, no. 12, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1167/10.12.27
    Fougnie, Daryl ; Asplund, Christopher L. ; Marois, René. / What are the units of storage in visual working memory?. In: Journal of vision. 2010 ; Vol. 10, No. 12. pp. 1-11.
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