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Hongsup Shin, Wei Ji Ma; Visual short-term memory for oriented, colored objects. Journal of Vision 2017;17(9):12. doi: 10.1167/17.9.12.
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A central question in the study of visual short-term memory (VSTM) has been whether its basic units are objects or features. Most studies addressing this question have used change detection tasks in which the feature value before the change is highly discriminable from the feature value after the change. This approach assumes that memory noise is negligible, which recent work has shown not to be the case. Here, we investigate VSTM for orientation and color within a noisy-memory framework, using change localization with a variable magnitude of change. A specific consequence of the noise is that it is necessary to model the inference (decision) stage. We find that (a) orientation and color have independent pools of memory resource (consistent with classic results); (b) an irrelevant feature dimension is either encoded but ignored during decision-making, or encoded with low precision and taken into account during decision-making; and (c) total resource available in a given feature dimension is lower in the presence of task-relevant stimuli that are neutral in that feature dimension. We propose a framework in which feature resource comes both in packaged and in targeted form.
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