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Lisa Blalock; Mask Similarity Impacts Short-term Consolidation in Visual Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):331. doi: 10.1167/13.9.331.
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Short-term consolidation is the process in which perceptual representations are stabilized into visual working memory (VWM) representations to prevent interference from subsequent visual input. Previous work has shown that when visual masks are presented soon after the offset of the memory array, memory accuracy is impaired especially with larger set sizes (Gegenfurtner & Sperling, 1993; Jolicoeur & Dell' Acqua, 1998; Vogel, Woodman, & Luck, 2006). Vogel and colleagues (2006) argued that visual masks overwrite the memory items when they have not been fully consolidated. However, in their experiments the visual masks were made of the same stimuli as the to-be-remembered items, which could have led to interference with controlled attention resources that select and maintain items in working memory (Engle & Kane, 2004). The current study examined how short-term consolidation is affected by the similarity of the subsequent visual items (i.e., visual masks) by using a color change detection task. In the task, masks were either similar or dissimilar to the memory stimuli and were displayed at varying intervals following the memory array. Similar masks were made up of the same colored squares as the to-be-remembered stimuli while dissimilar masks were black and white grids. Set size was also manipulated with participants viewing set sizes of 1, 2, 3, and 4 items. Results showed more interference from similar masks: similar masks required more time to consolidate and had lower overall performance compared to dissimilar masks. This pattern was especially true with larger set sizes. Overall, these results show very early involvement of controlled attention resources in VWM processing and suggest that an overwriting process cannot fully explain the interference from visual masks at brief intervals following the memory array.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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