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Benjamin Peters, Benjamin Rahm, Stefan Czoschke, Catherine Barnes, Jochen Kaiser, Christoph Bledowski; Sequential whole-report reveals different states in visual working memory. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):101. doi: 10.1167/17.10.101.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Working memory (WM) provides rapid and flexible access to a limited amount of information in the service of ongoing tasks. Studies of visual WM usually involve the encoding and retention of multiple items, while probing a single item only. Little is therefore known about how well multiple items can be reported from visual WM. Here we asked participants to successively report each of up to eight simultaneously encoded Gabor patch orientations from WM. Report order was externally cued, and stimulus orientations had to be reproduced on a continuous dimension. Participants were able to sequentially report items from WM with an above-chance precision even at high set sizes. Importantly, we observed that precision varied systematically with report order: It dropped steeply from the first to the second report but decreased only slightly thereafter. This trajectory of precision was better captured by a discontinuous rather than an exponential function, suggesting that items were reported from different states in visual WM. Additional experiments showed that the steep drop in precision between the first and subsequent reports could not be explained by a retro-cue that selectively protected fragile visual WM representations for the first reported item, the longer retention interval for later reported items, or the visual interference by the first report. Instead, the drop in precision disappeared when participants performed an interfering task that mimicked the executive demands of the report procedure after the retention interval and prior to the first report. The present study provided the hitherto missing initial characterization of sequential reports from visual WM. Taken together, these results suggest that a sequential whole-report reveals qualitatively different states in visual WM that may differ in the degree of dependence on executive functions.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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