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Chengfeng Zhu, Shulin Chen, Rende Shui, Mowei Shen, Zaifeng Gao; Attentional Mechanism for Organization in Visual Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):863. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.863.
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It has been suggested that visual working memory (VWM) is involved in integrating the sampled discrete information into a coherent visual percept. However, how this integration takes place in VWM for the sequentially processed information remains unclear. We recently demonstrated that VWM can realize and use potential Gestalt principles within the sequentially encoded representations: The closure and similarity cues among the sequentially presented objects significantly enhanced VWM performance relative to conditions without gestalt cues (Gao, Gao, Tang, Shui, & Shen, 2016, Organization principles in visual working memory: Evidence from sequential stimulus display. Cognition, 146, 277-288). In the current study, we examined (1) whether the VWM organization is an automatic process regardless of attention, (2) if VWM organization is a voluntary process, which type of attention plays a pivotal role. To this end, we displayed the to-be-memorized stimuli sequentially and in half of trials there were gestalt cues; critically, an attention-consuming task (visual search task for space-based attention or mental rotation task for object-based attention) was added into the maintenance phase of VWM. We predicted that if the VWM organization was an automatic process, the secondary task should affect the organization effect. If the VWM organization was a voluntary process, we predicted that the secondary task would erase the organization effect. Experiments 1 and 2 tested the role of attention underlying closure, and found that visual search task erased the organization effect while mental rotation task did not. Experiments 3 and 4 tested the role of attention underlying similarity, and found that mental rotation task erased the organization effect while visual search task did not. Together, we suggest that VWM organization is a voluntary process, yet the key attention is determined by the nature of the memorized stimuli.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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