September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
The origins of visual working memory capacity in infants: Implications for theory building
Author Affiliations
  • Bret Eschman
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Shannon Ross-Sheehy
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 448. doi:
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      Bret Eschman, Shannon Ross-Sheehy; The origins of visual working memory capacity in infants: Implications for theory building. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):448. doi:

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

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Visual short-term memory (STM) assessments in infancy can offer important insights into adult models of working memory (WM). Previous work has demonstrated rapid improvements in change detection during the first year of life (e.g., Ross-Sheehy, Oakes & Luck, 2003; Oakes, Ross-Sheehy & Luck, 2006), but classic infant testing procedures make it difficult to determine if we are tapping the same cognitive process in infant tasks that we do in adult WM tasks (e.g., Luck & Vogel, 1997). Thus, the goal of this project was to develop a single change detection task that could be used from infancy through adulthood, so that we may begin to understand the origins of individual differences in adult VWM capacity. Infants (5-, 8-, and 11-mos) and adults completed the task (Fig.1A). Look durations to each circle were calculated, and change preference (minus chance) scores revealed significant effects. There was a significant preference for the changing item at ss2 for 5, 8, 11-mo-olds, and adults (p=.002,.001,.027,.001 respectively), ss3 for 11-mo-olds and adults (p=.054m, & .001, respectively) and ss4 for adults (p=.001). Additionally, changes in pupil dilation during the 3000ms test array revealed a significant effect of change status, F(1,135)=7.26, p=.008, suggesting pupil dilation may reflect processing associated with memory maintenance and/or change detection. Moreover, pupil change from baseline varied with set size, with smaller sets producing greater dilation. This effect was reversed in adults, suggesting this change from baseline might reflect mental effort associated with successful WM maintenance (see Fig.1B). Taken together, results from this task support and extend previous infant findings, and provide the first data collected using the same task in infants and adults. Our findings suggest that change detection in infancy may reflect the development of adult VWM mechanisms, and provide a means for critical early assessment of theoretical accounts of capacity.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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