August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Obligatory encoding of task-irrelevant features depletes working memory resources
Author Affiliations
  • Louise Marshall
    Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, University College London
  • Paul Bays
    Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, University College London
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 853. doi:10.1167/12.9.853
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      Louise Marshall, Paul Bays; Obligatory encoding of task-irrelevant features depletes working memory resources. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):853. doi: 10.1167/12.9.853.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Selective attention is often considered the "gateway" to visual working memory (VWM). However, the extent to which we can voluntarily control which features enter memory is debated. Current models describe VWM as a limited resource shared out (continuously or discretely) between elements of a visual scene. Consequently, as memory load increases, the fidelity with which each visual feature is stored decreases. Here we used changes in recall precision to probe whether task-irrelevant features were encoded into VWM when individuals selectively attended to specific feature dimensions. We examined the resolution with which individuals could reproduce from memory the orientations or colors of items presented in sequential displays. Recall precision for both features was significantly enhanced when task-irrelevant features were removed, but knowledge of which features would be probed provided no advantage over having to memorise both features of all items. In a second experiment, we assessed the effect of an interpolated orientation- or color-matching task on recall of orientations in a memory array. The presence of orientation information in the second array was found to disrupt memory of the first array. This cost in recall precision was identical whether the interfering features had to be remembered, attended to, or could be ignored, implying involuntary storage of behaviorally-irrelevant visual features. Together, these results indicate that merely attending to an object can promote automatic encoding of all its features, depleting limited working memory resources.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012

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