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Sonia Poltoratski, Yaoda Xu; The association of color memory and the enumeration of multiple spatially overlapping sets. Journal of Vision 2013;13(8):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.8.6.
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Using dot displays, Halberda, Sires, and Feigenson (2006) showed that observers could simultaneously encode the numerosity of two spatially overlapping sets and the superset of all items at a glance. With the brief display and the masking used in Halberda et al., the task required observers to encode the colors of each set in order to select and enumerate all the dots in that set. As such, the observed capacity limit for set enumeration could reflect a limit in visual short-term memory (VSTM) capacity for the set color rather than a limit in set enumeration per se. Here, we largely replicated Halberda et al. and found successful enumeration of approximately two sets (the superset was not probed). We also found that only about two and a half colors could be remembered from the colored dot displays whether or not the enumeration task was performed concurrently with the color VSTM task. Because observers must remember the color of a set prior to enumerating it, the under three-item VSTM capacity for color necessarily dictates that set enumeration capacity in this paradigm could not exceed two sets. Thus, the ability to enumerate multiple spatially overlapping sets is likely limited by VSTM capacity to retain the discriminating feature of these sets. This relationship suggests that the capacity for set enumeration cannot be considered independently from the capacity for the set's defining features.
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