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Anna Heuer, John Crawford, Anna Schubö; Action-related upating of visual working memory: Attentional weighting of spatial locations and feature dimensions. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):867. doi: 10.1167/17.10.867.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual working memory (VWM) contents can be weighted to reflect differences in task-relevance. This is typically studied by presenting retrocues during the retention interval, but under natural conditions, the relevance of visual objects is mostly determined by action intentions. In a series of experiments, we investigated whether actions induce a weighting of VWM representations according to action-relevance. This investigation built on two mechanisms of action-related selective processing that influence perception: The deployment of spatial attention to action goals, and the selective weighting of action-related feature dimensions. In a combined memory and movement task, participants memorized items and performed a movement during the retention interval. This was either a pointing movement towards a specific location, or a particular type of movement. In experiments with pointing, memory was better for test items presented at locations corresponding to the movement goal than at action-irrelevant locations. This preferential maintenance of action-relevant information was particularly pronounced when memory load was high. Performance at locations neighbouring to the movement goal was better than at locations farther away, indicating an attentional gradient spreading out from the action goal. Experiments with different types of movements showed that representations are also weighted to reflect the action-relevance of feature dimensions. Memory for items defined by size was better during the preparation of a grasping movement than during the preparation of a pointing movement. Conversely, memory for colour tended to be better when a pointing movement was being planned. Whereas size is a relevant feature dimension for grasping, colour can be used to localize a goal object and guide pointing. Taken together, these findings show that our actions modulate visual processing not only during perception, but also during short-term retention. This action-related updating optimizes the efficient use of capacity-limited VWM, and ensures that information required for upcoming actions is easily available.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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