September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
When shorter delays lead to worse memories: Taking attention away from visual working memory temporarily makes it more vulnerable to test interference.
Author Affiliations
  • Benchi Wang
    Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Jan Theeuwes
    Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Christian Olivers
    Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 111. doi:10.1167/17.10.111
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      Benchi Wang, Jan Theeuwes, Christian Olivers; When shorter delays lead to worse memories: Taking attention away from visual working memory temporarily makes it more vulnerable to test interference.. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):111. doi: 10.1167/17.10.111.

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

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Abstract

Evidence shows that visual working memory (VWM) is strongly served by attentional mechanisms, whereas other evidence shows that VWM representations readily survive when attention is taken away. To reconcile these findings, we tested the hypothesis that directing attention away makes a memory representation vulnerable to interference from the test pattern, but only temporarily so. When given sufficient time, the robustness of VWM can be restored. In six experiments, participants remembered a single grating for a later memory test. In the crucial conditions, participants also performed a letter change detection task in between, during the delay period. Using various replications, Experiments 1-4 demonstrate, the effect predicted: The intervening task had an adverse effect on memory performance, but only when the test display appeared immediately after the secondary task. At long delays (of 3.5 seconds), memory performance was on a par with conditions in which there was no intervening task. By varying the similarity between the test and memorized pattern, Experiments 5-6 further showed that performance suffered at early test intervals, unless the test item was dissimilar to the memory item. In conclusion, VWM storage involves multiple types of representation, with unattended memories being more susceptible to interference than others. Moreover, importantly, this fragility has only a temporary status.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017

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