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Jamal Williams, Timothy Brady, Viola Störmer; Multiple visual working memory items can guide attention and facilitate perceptual processing. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):682. doi: 10.1167/18.10.682.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research has shown that contents of visual working memory (VWM) can guide attention to features that match those actively held in mind. This memory-based attentional guidance has been shown for a single item, but whether similar guidance occurs for multiple items in VWM is under debate. Furthermore, it is unclear whether VWM contents can facilitate perceptual processing in tasks that do not require a narrow focusing of attention. Here we demonstrate that VWM can guide attention and facilitate visual processing of features that match the memory content, even for two items. Participants were instructed to remember one or two colors while performing another task. In Experiment 1, on 80% of the trials, instead of reporting the memory color, participants performed an unrelated visual search task in which the target either appeared in a circle that matched the color held in VWM or not (as in Soto, 2005). Participants were faster in finding the target when it matched the memory color relative to when it did not for both set sizes even though the memory color was uninformative in the search task (SS2; t(19)=-2.5,p< 0.05), consistent with automatic memory-based guidance. In Experiment 2, instead of a visual search task, we used a perceptual dot estimation task in which participants had to determine which one of two briefly presented dot arrays showed an overrepresentation of one color (as in Fang, Becker, & Liu, 2017 VSS). We found that the number of dots required to accurately identify the target array was significantly lower when the target color matched a memory color, suggesting that VWM contents facilitate visual processing. Importantly, this pattern was present for single and multiple memory items (SS2; t(28)=-2.6,p< 0.01). Overall, this suggests that two items held in VWM can affect perceptual tasks and attentional guidance in a relatively automatic fashion.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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