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Jifan Zhou, Yijun Zhang, Shulin Chen, Rende Shui, Mowei Shen; Integration of ensemble representations stored in visual working memory. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):116. doi: 10.1167/17.10.116.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The "working" function of visual working memory (VWM) has been highlighted by recent studies. Findings demonstrated that the sequentially presented visual elements would be involuntarily integrated into visual objects or figures inside VWM, providing evidence that VWM functions as a buffer serving perceptual processes by storing the intermediate perceptual representations for further processing. In those studies, the number of visual elements was usually controlled within the capacity of VWM; however, the realistic environment we live in is so rich and complex that the visual system has to constantly deal with massive visual information. How is such enormous amount of information actually processed with limited VWM capacity? Notwithstanding researchers know that the visual system can extract statistical properties of crowds of objects to form ensemble representations, it is largely unclear whether and how ensemble representations integrate inside VWM. This issue was investigated in the present study. Participants viewed two temporally separated groups of discs, after a short time, they reported the memorized mean size of either one of the groups or the whole (i.e., all the discs in the two groups) by adjusting a probe disc. The results indicated that participants were able to report accurate mean size of each group and the whole set of discs, respectively. More importantly, the reported mean size of the whole could be predicted by the pooled mean calculated based on the reported means of two individual groups. This result suggested that the temporally separated ensemble representations stored in VWM are able to be integrated into a higher-level ensemble representation, using the perceived statistics of the crowds of objects. Thus, when the amount of objects exceeds the capacity of VWM, the visual system will chose to store the necessary statistics for describing the ensemble and supporting further statistical computation.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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