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Sylvia Guillory, Zsuzsa Kaldy; Quantifying the effect of a distractor on the fidelity of visual working memory representations in 4-7-year-old children and adults. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1067. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1067.
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Introduction: Selective attention plays a pivotal role in what information enters our working memory. Following the design of Huang & Sekuler (2010), we investigated how task-irrelevant information (a distractor item presented during memory maintenance) can impact the fidelity of visual working memory (VWM) representations in 4-7-year-old children compared to adults. Methods: Using a delayed estimation task with line orientation stimuli, participants (N = 30 adults, N = 15 children) completed three blocks of trials: perceptual matching (baseline), a 1-item VWM task, and a serially presented 2-item VWM task. A response dial was used to manipulate the probe's line orientation to match the target's. In the 2-item task, participants were cued at the beginning of the trial to remember the first item in the series. Results and Discussion: In the 2-item task, results of 4-7-year-olds demonstrated a greater shift toward the distractor (M = 0.15 degrees of error, SD = 0.087) in comparison to adults (M = 0.036 degrees of error, SD = 0.061), F(1,43) = 26.57, p < 0.001. In addition, the precision of recall (in the 1-item task) significantly improved with age where precision is calculated as 1/SD, F(1,43) = 89.56, p < 0.001 (adults: M = 6.39 rad-1, SD = 1.48, children: M = 2.57 rad-1, SD = 0.66). To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of the effects of distractors on the fidelity of memory representations in children. We found that young children's memory representations are more susceptible to the influence of a distractor and this is likely due to immature attentional control systems.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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