August 2009
Volume 9, Issue 8
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2009
Estimating visual working memory capacity with whole and single probe test arrays
Author Affiliations
  • Nathaniel J. S. Ashby
    Psychology, University of Oregon
  • Keisuke Fukuda
    Psychology, University of Oregon
  • Edward K. Vogel
    Psychology, University of Oregon
Journal of Vision August 2009, Vol.9, 590. doi:
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      Nathaniel J. S. Ashby, Keisuke Fukuda, Edward K. Vogel; Estimating visual working memory capacity with whole and single probe test arrays. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):590.

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

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Estimates of visual working memory capacity vary considerably across individuals. These estimates appear to reflect a stable cognitive trait of the observer because they are consistent over time and are strongly predictive of performance related to high-level cognitive processes such as abstract reasoning and fluid intelligence. One common measure of capacity is the change detection procedure (e.g., Luck & Vogel, 1997) in which observers are shown an array of simple objects that must be remembered over a retention period. Memory for the array is then measured with the presentation of a “test array” in which the observer must detect a change in the identity of one of the objects from the original array. In the present study, we examined the psychometric properties of two variations of the test array presentation: a whole-probe test in which all of the items from the memory array are present; and a single-probe test in which only a single item from the memory array is evaluated. We measured memory capacity in these two conditions across two separate sessions separated by a one-week interval. At the group level, we found that both whole-probe and single-probe conditions yielded comparable memory capacity estimates as well as strong test-retest correlations across the two sessions. However, at the individual level, we observed that low memory capacity subjects showed a large benefit in performance for single-probe conditions relative to whole-probe conditions, while the high capacity subjects showed a slight cost in performance for single-probe test arrays. Together, these results are consistent with previous work that has suggested that low memory capacity individuals are highly susceptible to attentional distraction and interference.

Ashby, N. J. Fukuda, K. Vogel, E. K. (2009). Estimating visual working memory capacity with whole and single probe test arrays [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 9(8):590, 590a,, doi:10.1167/9.8.590. [CrossRef]

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