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Katherine C. Bettencourt, Samantha W. Michalka, David C. Somers; Shared filtering processes link attentional and visual short-term memory capacity limits. Journal of Vision 2011;11(10):22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.10.22.
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Both visual attention and visual short-term memory (VSTM) have been shown to have capacity limits of 4 ± 1 objects, driving the hypothesis that they share a visual processing buffer. However, these capacity limitations also show strong individual differences, making the degree to which these capacities are related unclear. Moreover, other research has suggested a distinction between attention and VSTM buffers. To explore the degree to which capacity limitations reflect the use of a shared visual processing buffer, we compared individual subject's capacities on attentional and VSTM tasks completed in the same testing session. We used a multiple object tracking (MOT) and a VSTM change detection task, with varying levels of distractors, to measure capacity. Significant correlations in capacity were not observed between the MOT and VSTM tasks when distractor filtering demands differed between the tasks. Instead, significant correlations were seen when the tasks shared spatial filtering demands. Moreover, these filtering demands impacted capacity similarly in both attention and VSTM tasks. These observations fail to support the view that visual attention and VSTM capacity limits result from a shared buffer but instead highlight the role of the resource demands of underlying processes in limiting capacity.
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