September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
The limitations of visual working memory in prioritizing visual stimuli for conscious access
Author Affiliations
  • Dirk van Moorselaar
    Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
  • Jan Theeuwes
    Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
  • Christian Olivers
    Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 869. doi:
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      Dirk van Moorselaar, Jan Theeuwes, Christian Olivers; The limitations of visual working memory in prioritizing visual stimuli for conscious access. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):869.

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

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Models of biased competition assume that visual working memory (VWM) representations bias visual selection. Dual-task studies in which participants perform a visual search task while holding specific content in VWM, have suggested that only a single VWM representation at a time can interact with visual attention. The presents study tested more directly the limitations of VWM in prioritizing visual stimuli for a conscious experience. Recent evidence from breaking continuous flash suppression (b-CFS) studies shows that targets matching a single item in memory break through interocular suppression faster than non-matching targets. In the present set of experiments we used this technique to assess if memory-matching targets also break through more rapidly when more than one item was in memory. In the first experiment the target was the only item in the visual display. Results showed that targets matching the VWM content broke through the CFS sooner than non-matching targets. Moreover, breakthrough was as fast for one item as for two items in memory, suggesting that more than one item in VWM can affect prioritization for consciousness. However, in subsequent experiments the target was not the only item in the display, but accompanied by competing objects. Under these conditions, the breakthrough benefit was reduced by half when memory load went from one to two. The results are consistent with a dissociation between VWM functions: Filtering relevant from competing non-relevant information, and making this relevant information accessible for conscious report. The first process suffers from increasing load from one to two, while the second does not. Implications for models assuming a single active representation in VWM are discussed.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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