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, 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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