July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
The content of visual working memory is prioritized for conscious access.
Author Affiliations
  • Surya Gayet
    Department of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Helmholtz Institute
  • Chris Paffen
    Department of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Helmholtz Institute
  • Stefan Van der Stigchel
    Department of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Helmholtz Institute
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 931. doi:10.1167/13.9.931
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      Surya Gayet, Chris Paffen, Stefan Van der Stigchel; The content of visual working memory is prioritized for conscious access.. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):931. doi: 10.1167/13.9.931.

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

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Abstract

In a series of experiments we tested whether information that matches the content of visual working memory (VWM) is prioritized by the visual system, such that this information reaches visual awareness faster than non-matching information. Trials in our experiments consisted of three phases: first, a colored patch (i.e. the cue) was shown, which participants were instructed to either remember (memory condition) or not (passive viewing). Next, a target was erased from awareness by interocular suppression: a target, either matching the color of the cue or not, gradually increased in intensity for one eye, while a high contrast dynamic pattern was presented to the other eye. Participants were instructed to press a button as soon as they detected the target. In the final phase of the color memory condition, three colored patches were presented. Participants indicated which of the targets matched the cue. The results show that targets that matched the memorized color broke through interocular suppression faster than non-matching targets. In contrast, the passive viewing condition showed no such color congruency effect. Importantly, a control experiment revealed that when the target and the dynamic pattern were presented to the same eye no difference was observed between the color memory condition and the passive viewing condition. In another experiment, we ruled out the possibility that the congruency effect was caused by deeper initial processing of the memorized cue; two color stimuli were subsequently presented, followed by a postcue indicating which of the two stimuli should be retained. The color congruency effect was still observed under these conditions. Together, these findings show that conscious access is prioritized for information matching the content of VWM. We suggest that VWM, a system that retains visual information for imminent goal-directed behavior, is recruited to funnel down the sensory input to that which requires conscious access.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013

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